Can 5G really cause brain cancer? The short answer: No

Union Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on 1 August announced that 5G service is expected to be launched in October 2022 in India.

BySumit Jha

Published Aug 09, 2022 | 11:40 AMUpdatedAug 09, 2022 | 12:02 PM

According to the WHO no adverse health effect has been causally linked with exposure to wireless technologies. (Creative Commons)

The recently held 5G spectrum auction in India made headlines for garnering more than ₹1.5 lakh crore.

Following this, Union Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, on Monday, 1 August, announced that the service is expected to be launched in India in October 2022.

While the 5G or the fifth generation wireless mobile phone technology is said to have superior performance and allows a wide range of new applications, many users think that the 5G “radiation” can cause brain cancer.

5G explained

Like all mobile technologies, 5G uses radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic energy for communication between mobile phones and the base stations.

The RF energy is a form of non-ionising radiation that does not cause any damage to the DNA.

The non-ionising radiation is similar to FM radio waves.

On the other hand, ionising radiation like Ultraviolet light (UV) causes cancer by altering the DNA structure.

According to the World Health Organisation, after much research, no link has been found between the exposure to wireless technologies and any adverse health effects.

The radiation exposure from the 5G infrastructure is currently around 3.5 Gigahertz (GHz) and is similar to the existing mobile phone base stations.

In India, there are 10 spectrum bands across various frequencies being used — from low (600 Megahertz, or MHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1,800 MHz, 2,100 MHz, 2,300 MHz and 2,500 MHz) and mid (3,300 MHz/3.3GHz) to high (26 GHz).

With the use of multiple 5G beams, the exposure could vary according to the usage and location of the users.

As the RF increases, the penetration and absorption of the radiation into the body tissues decreases and is confined to the body’s surface (skin and eye).

The waves, however, do not cause any damage to the DNA or result in the formation of cancerous cells.

Experts anticipate no ill consequences to public health due to 5G, provided that the overall exposure remains below the limit prescribed by the international guidelines.

Tissue-heating concern

Tissue heating is the primary outcome of the interaction between any electromagnetic waves and the human body. However, the radiofrequency exposure levels from current wireless technologies result in negligible temperature rise in the human body.

In a 2015 experiment, researchers found no association with the level of DNA damage.

On the other hand, a 2017 study showed that mobile phones use frequencies of 1.8 to 2.2 GHz, cause tissue heating. A 2018 study, on the other hand, did not find a clear association between high frequency radiofrequency and brain cancer.

More recently, a 2021 study also found that people experience more Electromagnetic Fields (EMF)-related tissue heating as they get older.

However, tissue heating is considered to be short-term and minimal.

Over the years, no solid evidence has been found to prove that 5G’s non-ionising radiations could cause brain cancer or have adverse health effects on humans or animals.

However, the new technology is expected to improve e-Health as it gives scope for developing new applications.
It is expected to provide better services in telemedicine, remote surveillance and telesurgery.