Radiation literature survey
The radiation literature survey provides updates on published literature related to radiation (both ionising and non-ionising) and health.
Published literature includes articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals, scientific-body reports, conference proceedings, etc.
The updates on new radiation literature that are of high quality and of public interest will be published as they arise. For each update, a short summary and a link to the abstract or to the full document (if freely available) are provided. The update may also include a commentary from ARPANSA and links to external websites for further information. The links may be considered useful at the time of preparation of the update however ARPANSA has no control over the content or currency of information on external links. Please see the ARPANSA website disclaimer.
Explanations of the more common terms used in the updates are found in the glossary.
The radiation literature that is listed in the updates is found by searching various databases and is not exhaustive.
The intention of the radiation literature survey is to provide an update on new literature related to radiation and health that may be of interest to the general public. ARPANSA does not take responsibility for any of the content in the scientific literature and is not able to provide copies of the papers that are listed.
Visit the National Library of Australia Australian Government Web Archive to access archived information no longer available on our website.
Increasing incidence of thyroid cancer in the Nordic countries with main focus on Swedish data
Carlberg M, Hedendahl L, Ahonen M, Koppel T, Hardell L
BMC Cancer 2016; 16 (1): 426-
This is an ecological study that investigated the incidence of thyroid cancer and mobile phone use in Sweden and other Nordic countries. In Sweden, there was a statistically significant increase in thyroid cancer incidence in women during the period 1970-2013. The highest annual percentage change (APC) was found in the age group 20-39 during 2006-2013 (APC = +10.77%, 95% confidence interval, 95% CI = 5.75 -16.04%). In Nordic countries, there was also statistically significant increase in thyroid cancer incidence in women. The authors compared the thyroid cancer incidence data to the total duration of mobile phone calls made in the Nordic countries for the period 2001-2013. The authors hypothesised that radiofrequency (RF) exposure resulting from mobile phone use is a possible risk factor for thyroid cancer.
Epidemiological investigations on RF exposure and thyroid cancer are scarce. There are more studies investigating the thyroid hormone function, which are mostly animal studies.
Although useful as a preliminary study to generate a hypothesis between a possible risk factor and outcome an ecological study cannot be used to establish a cause and effect association. This is because ecological studies have a number of limitations including that the observation or data collection is made at the population level and not at the individual level. Further studies will be required to test if there actually is an association between mobile phone use and thyroid cancer.
Acute Exposure to Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA) has effects on the electroencephalogram and electrocardiogram, consistent with vagal nerve stimulation
Burgess AP et al
Environ Res 2016; 150: 461-469
This is a human provocation study that investigated the effects of Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA) on brain and cardiac activity. A total of 164 police officers and a further 40 volunteers were involved in the study for two experiments. In the first experiment, participants were exposed to a TETRA sourceplaced against the head and chest, whereas in the second experiment only the chest was exposed. There were minor neurophysiological effects that were observed in the first experiment during the chest exposure that were not replicated in the second experiment. The authors reported that there is no association between TETRA exposure and adverse health effects.
Maternal exposure to extremely low frequency magnetic fields: Association with time to pregnancy and foetal growth
Eskelinen T et al
Environ Int 2016
This case-control study looked into the association between extremely low frequency (ELF) magnetic fields (MF) exposure and adverse effects on pregnancy. A total of 373 women were included in the study. The ELF MF exposure levels before and during pregnancy were obtained via measurements and questionnaires. There were no statistically significant findings between ELF MF exposure and any adverse pregnancy outcomes investigated such as delayed pregnancies and low birth weight.
Symptoms in Swiss adolescents in relation to exposure from fixed site transmitters: a prospective cohort study
Schoeni A et al
Environ Health 2016; 15 (1): 77
This is a cohort study that investigated whether environmental RF exposure is associated with subjective well-being. A total of 439 students aged 12-17 years participated in the study. Subjective symptoms related to the presence of mobile phone base stations and broadcast transmitters (used for TV and radio transmission) were collected at the beginning of the study and a year later via questionnaires. The RF exposure was assessed via calculations using information on the fixed transmitter sources. The analyses of data following a cohort approach found an increased risk only for tiredness (odds ratio, OR = 2.94; 95% CI = 1.43 – 6.05). However the analyses following a cross-sectional approach did not find any associations. The authors concluded that the environmental RF exposure was not consistently associated with subjective symptoms.
Mobile phones and cancer. Part 3. Update and overall conclusions from epidemiological and animal studies
Health Council of the Netherlands, 2016
Health Council of the Netherlands, 2016
This report provided an update on two previous reports published by the Health Council of the Netherlands â€“ analysis of the epidemiological data on mobile phones and cancer (published in 2013 (PDF 2.8 mb) and analysis of the data on carcinogenesis in experimental animals (published in 2014 (PDF 862 kb). The council determined that it is not possible to state that there is a proven association between long-term and frequent use of a mobile phone and increased risk of head and neck tumours. However the weak association found from epidemiological observations cannot be excluded. The council concluded that it is unlikely that exposure to radiofrequency (RF) radiation from mobile phone use can cause brain tumour; the combination of bias, confounding and chance could be the explanation for these epidemiological observations.
The debate on whether heavy mobile phone use causes brain tumour is continuing. This latest report from the council reaffirms the conclusion that there is no established association between long-term and frequent use of a mobile phone and an increased risk for tumours in the brain or head and neck area.
The overall findings from the epidemiological data did show some weak associations between long-term, heavy use of mobile phone and increased incidence of gliomas and acoustic neuromas. Based largely on this limited evidence the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified RF radiation as possibly carcinogenic to humans.
Mobile phone technology will continue to evolve and exposure to RF may continuously change as well. The council recommended that studies into long-term health effects of mobile phone use to be continued, where such studies have credible assessment of the RF exposure.
Association between Exposure to Smartphones and Ocular Health in Adolescents
Kim J et al
Ophthalmic Epidemiol 2016
This is a cross-sectional study that looked into the effects of mobile phone use on symptoms related to eye health. A total of 715 adolescents participated in the study. Information on smartphone use and self-reported ocular symptoms (such as blurring, redness, inflammation, dryness, etc) was gathered via a questionnaire. The authors did not assess the exposure to RF from the smartphones. “Excessive” users of smartphones (defined as more than 2 hours/day) were found to be more likely to report multiple ocular symptoms. Users with a lifetime usage of more than 12 hours had a 3.05-fold higher likelihood (95% confidence interval = 1.51 – 6.19) of reporting multiple ocular symptoms compared to those with less than 3 hours lifetime use. The authors concluded that increasing use of smartphones can affect eye health.
Effects of 3 Hz and 60 Hz Extremely Low Frequency Electromagnetic Fields on Anxiety-Like Behaviors, Memory Retention of Passive Avoidance and Electrophysiological Properties of Male Rats
Rostami A et al
J Lasers Med Sci 2016; 7 (2): 120-125
p>This is an animal study that investigated whether exposure to extremely low frequency (ELF) magnetic fields (EMF) affects cognitive function. A total of 113 rats were used in the study for three different types of testing. In all tests, rats were designated into three groups: sham and exposed either at a frequency of 3 Hertz (Hz) or 60 Hz. The exposure was done in 2 blocks of 2 hours per day, for 4 days, at a magnetic field of 4 millitesla. The authors found that ELF magnetic field exposure decreased locomotor activity but did not alter anxiety-like behaviour or memory.
Effects of 1950 MHz W-CDMA-like signal on human spermatozoa
Nakatani-Enomoto S et al
Bioelectromagnetics 2016: in press
This is an in vitro study that investigated the non-thermal effects of RF radiation on sperm. Sperm samples were collected from a total of 55 participants aged 20-44 years. Sperm cells were subjected to RF exposure at a frequency of 1950 megahertz (MHz) and at specific absorption rate (SAR) of 2 and 6 watts per kilogram (W/kg) and to sham, for 1 hour. The authors found that RF exposure did not have any effects on human sperm cells in a condition where the temperature is well-controlled.
Social behavioral testing and brain magnetic resonance imaging in chicks exposed to mobile phone radiation during development
Zhou Z et al
BMC Neurosci 2016; 17 (1): 36-
This animal study aimed to investigate whether RF radiation affects the development of embryos. A total of 76 developing chick embryos were divided into two groups: control and exposed. Eggs were exposed to RF emitted from a mobile phone operating at 900 MHz for 10 hours per day, for 16 days. The power flux density was up to 18 milliwatts per centimetre squared (mW/cm2) which is around 40 times above the public exposure limit in the Australian RF Standard. After hatching, it was found that in the exposed group the chick social behaviours were impaired and the development of the cerebellum appeared to be delayed. The authors concluded that prenatal RF exposure could have an adverse effect on brain development.
Has the incidence of brain cancer risen in Australia since the introduction of mobile phones 29 years ago?
Chapman S, Azizi L, Luo Q, Sitas F
Cancer Epidemiol 2016: in press
This ecological study compared mobile phone ownership with the incidence of brain cancer in Australia. In the study, brain cancer incidence rates from 1982 to 2012 are compared with the number of mobile phone accounts in the Australian population from 1987 to 2012. The percentage of the population having mobile phone accounts increased from 0% in 1987 to 94% in 2014. During the 30 year period age-adjusted (adult) brain cancer incidence rates increased slightly in males but were stable in females. Significant increases in brain cancer incidence were observed only in the elderly (aged ≥ 70 years), but the increase in incidence in this age group began from 1982, before the introduction of mobile phones. The study also modelled the expected incidence assuming risk estimates of 1.5 in ever-users of mobile phones, and 2.5 in a proportion of 'heavy users', assuming a 10 year latency period between use and incidence of brain cancer. The authors concluded that after nearly 30 years of mobile phone use in Australia among millions of people, there is no evidence of any rise in any age group that could be plausibly attributed to mobile phones.
There have been a number of ecological studies internationally that have compared the incidence of brain cancer with the number of mobile phone accounts over time. In Australia, Dobes et al (2011a, 2011b) reported no overall increase in the incidence of brain tumours between 2000-2008 in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. There was, however, a significant increase in malignant brain tumours which was largely due to an increase in the ≥ 65-year age group, consistent with the Chapman et al results. Although the Chapman study does not investigate brain cancer sub-types it mentions that 80% of all brain cancers are gliomas.
The ecological studies on mobile phone use and brain cancer have been evaluated by a number of recent authoritative reviews (IARC, 2013 (PDF 6.1 mb); ARPANSA, 2014; SCENIHR, 2015 (PDF 5.1 mb)). Overall, as pointed out by the SCENIHR review, the ecological studies consistently show little indication of an increase in the age groups of most active mobile phone users and steady weak increases only in the elderly. It must be noted that overall these ecological studies are limited in many ways and provide the least evidence for a causal association.
Similar to the Chapman study, two previous studies have modelled the data to predict the expected brain tumour rates assuming increased risk estimates between mobile phone use and brain tumour (Deltour, 2012; Little 2012). Similar to the Chapman study, the previous studies showed that if the increased risk estimates were true than one would expect a much higher brain tumour incidence than what is currently observed.
Some case-control studies have reported possible associations between heavy mobile phone users and brain tumour. Based largely on this limited evidence the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified radiofrequency fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans. More rigorous long-term studies are being coordinated by the World Health Organization and Australia is taking part in this research program.