Article Text

Exposure assessment
Estimation of RF energy absorbed in the brain from mobile phones in the Interphone Study
  1. E Cardis1,2,
  2. N Varsier3,
  3. J D Bowman4,
  4. I Deltour2,5,
  5. J Figuerola1,
  6. S Mann6,
  7. M Moissonnier2,
  8. M Taki7,8,
  9. P Vecchia9,
  10. R Villegas1,
  11. M Vrijheid1,2,
  12. K Wake9,
  13. J Wiart3
  1. 1Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL), Hospital del Mar Research Institute (IMIM), CIBER Epidemiologia y Salud Pública (CIBERESP), Barcelona, Spain
  2. 2Formerly (except MM and ID) at International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France
  3. 3France Telecom RD, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France
  4. 4Engineering and Physical Hazards Branch, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
  5. 5Institute of Cancer Epidemiology, Danish Cancer Society, Copenhagen, Denmark
  6. 6Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards, Health Protection Agency, Didcot, UK
  7. 7Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Tokyo Metropolitan University, Tokyo, Japan
  8. 8EMC Group, Applied Electromagnetic Research Center, National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, Hachioji, Tokyo, Japan
  9. 9Department Technology and Health, National Institute of Health, Rome, Italy
  1. Correspondence to Professor E Cardis, Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL), Hospital del Mar Research Institute (IMIM), CIBER Epidemiologia y Salud PÃblica (CIBERESP), Doctor Aiguader 88, 08003 Barcelona, Spain; ecardis{at}


Objectives The objective of this study was to develop an estimate of a radio frequency (RF) dose as the amount of mobile phone RF energy absorbed at the location of a brain tumour, for use in the Interphone Epidemiological Study.

Methods We systematically evaluated and quantified all the main parameters thought to influence the amount of specific RF energy absorbed in the brain from mobile telephone use. For this, we identified the likely important determinants of RF specific energy absorption rate during protocol and questionnaire design, we collected information from study subjects, network operators and laboratories involved in specific energy absorption rate measurements and we studied potential modifiers of phone output through the use of software-modified phones. Data collected were analysed to assess the relative importance of the different factors, leading to the development of an algorithm to evaluate the total cumulative specific RF energy (in joules per kilogram), or dose, absorbed at a particular location in the brain. This algorithm was applied to Interphone Study subjects in five countries.

Results The main determinants of total cumulative specific RF energy from mobile phones were communication system and frequency band, location in the brain and amount and duration of mobile phone use. Though there was substantial agreement between categorisation of subjects by cumulative specific RF energy and cumulative call time, misclassification was non-negligible, particularly at higher frequency bands. Factors such as adaptive power control (except in Code Division Multiple Access networks), discontinuous transmission and conditions of phone use were found to have a relatively minor influence on total cumulative specific RF energy.

Conclusions While amount and duration of use are important determinants of RF dose in the brain, their impact can be substantially modified by communication system, frequency band and location in the brain. It is important to take these into account in analyses of risk of brain tumours from RF exposure from mobile phones.

  • Mobile phones
  • radio frequency radiation
  • exposure assessment
  • epidemiological study
  • non-ionising radiation

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non commercial and is otherwise in compliance with the license. See: and

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  • Funding This Interphone Study was conducted with funding from the European Fifth Framework Program, ‘Quality of Life and Management of Living Resources’ (contract QLK4-CT-1999901563) and the International Union against Cancer (UICC). The UICC received funds for this purpose from the Mobile Manufacturers' Forum and GSM Association. Provision of funds to the Interphone Study investigators via the UICC was governed by agreements that guaranteed Interphone's complete scientific independence. The terms of these agreements are publicly available at Specific additional funding for the RF dose algorithm and the analyses presented here were provided by the German Bundesamt fuer Strahlenschutz, the French Fondation Santé et Radiofréquences and the Committee to Promote Research on the Possible Biological Effect of Electromagnetic Fields, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Japan. The findings and conclusions in this paper have not been formally disseminated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and should not be construed to represent any agency determination or policy.

  • Competing interests JB, EC, ID, JF, SM, MM, MT, RV, MV, PV and KW have no conflict of interest to declare. JW works for the research centre of France Telecom, as did NV from 2004 to 2005 and from 2010.

  • Patient consent Consent was obtained from patient or next of kin of the patient was too ill or had died and the next of kin was interviewed as a proxy.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the ethical committee of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and appropriate local and national Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) in participating countries.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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