Lost opportunities for cancer prevention: historical evidence on early warnings with emphasis on radiofrequency radiation

Hardell, Lennart and Carlberg, Michael. “Lost opportunities for cancer prevention: historical evidence on early warnings with emphasis on radiofrequency radiation” Reviews on Environmental Health, 2021. https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/reveh-2020-0168/html

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Published Ahead of Print / Just Accepted


Some historical aspects on late lessons from early warnings on cancer risks with lost time for prevention are discussed. One current example is the cancer-causing effect from radiofrequency (RF) radiation. Studies since decades have shown increased human cancer risk. The fifth generation, 5G, for wireless communication is about to be implemented world-wide despite no comprehensive investigations of potential risks to human health and the environment. This has created debate on this technology among concerned people in many countries. In an appeal to EU in September 2017, currently endorsed by more than 400 scientists and medical doctors, a moratorium on the 5G deployment was required until proper scientific evaluation of negative consequences has been made (www.5Gappeal.eu). That request has not been taken seriously by EU. Lack of proper unbiased risk evaluation of the 5G technology makes adverse effects impossible to be foreseen. This disregard is exemplified by the recent report from the International Commission on non-ionizing radiation protection (ICNIRP) whereby only thermal (heating) effects from RF radiation are acknowledged despite a large number of reported non-thermal effects. Thus, no health effects are acknowledged by ICNIRP for non-thermal RF electromagnetic fields in the range of 100 kHz–300 GHz. Based on results in three case-control studies on use of wireless phones we present preventable fraction for brain tumors. Numbers of brain tumors of not defined type were found to increase in Sweden, especially in the age group 20–39 years in both genders, based on the Swedish Inpatient Register. This may be caused by the high prevalence of wireless phone use among children and in adolescence taking a reasonable latency period and the higher vulnerability to RF radiation among young persons.


In fact, RF-EMF may now be classified as a human carcinogen, Group 1 [82], [, 83]. However, such classification can only be made by IARC.

In contrast to ICNIRP, some other expert panels such as European Academy of Environmental Medicine [91], the Bioinitiative group [92], and the Russian Commission for Protection from Non-Ionizing Radiation [93], take into account non-thermal RF effects and suggest much lower guidelines for RF exposure.

This review gives insight into missed opportunities for cancer prevention exemplified by asbestos, tobacco, certain pesticides and now RF radiation. No doubt economic considerations are favored instead of cancer prevention. The cancer victim is the loser in terms of suffering, life quality and shorter life expectancy. Also the life for the next-of-kin is affected. A strategy to sow doubt on cancer risks was established decades ago and is now adopted and implemented in more sophisticated way by the telecom industry regarding RF-EMF risks to human beings and the environment. Industry has the economic power, access to politicians and media whereas concerned people are unheard.

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