Question & Answer

Does living or working near a cellular tower make a difference to your chances of getting cancer?

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  • Cellular towers, also known as cell towers, cell sites or base stations, emit radiofrequency (RF) waves, a type of electromagnetic radiation.
  • Claims have been made that exposure to mobile phone base stations is linked to increased cancer risk.
  • A high-quality systematic review found that there isn’t enough information to be sure about the health effects of living or working near a cellular tower and the risk of developing cancer.
  • A moderate quality systematic review about cell towers’ effect on how people feel found that people who were exposed to electromagnetic fields emitted by mock-up cell towers might feel more anxious, tired, have headaches, feel sad, have trouble concentrating, feel dizzy or get easily annoyed.
  • Some laboratory studies with human cells showed that exposure to RF waves similar to those from cell towers didn’t change the cells in a way that could cause cancer.
  • A research conducted on a large group of people discovered that being near mobile phone base stations during pregnancy did not raise the chances of children developing early childhood cancers.
  • Some studies suggested there might be a relationship between living or working near a cell tower and increased certain types of brain tumours, childhood cancer, and deaths from cancer.
  • All of the mentioned studies were been conducted at least five or more years ago except one study about early childhood cancers, which highlights the fact that we need more up-to-date research.

Guidelines and recommendations

  • Because there is no clear evidence and we need more evidence, the International Agency for Research on Cancer says that RF waves might cause cancer in people. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) says that there is no evidence to indicate that RF waves, like those from cell towers, increases the risk of cancer or any other disease. The UK Health Security Agency has said that there’s no evidence that RF waves from cell towers increase the risk of getting cancer or any other disease, especially if the exposure is below internationally accepted levels.

Things to Remember

  • Opinions alone are not a reliable basis for claims about the effects of treatments.
  • Just because someone in authority makes a treatment claim, you cannot be sure that it is trustworthy unless it is clearly based on a summary of fair comparisons.
  • “Peer-reviewed” and published studies may not be fair comparisons.


  • Lead Researcher: Dr. Petek Eylül Taneri, Post-Doctoral Researcher, University of Galway
  • Reviewed by: Prof. Declan Devane, School of Nursing and Midwifery, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, Evidence Synthesis Ireland & Cochrane Ireland, University of Galway
  • Topic advisor: Prof. Andrew Murphy, Professor of General Practice, NUI Galway, Director of the Health Research Board Primary Care Clinical Trials Network Ireland and General Practitioner principal in a semi-rural practice.
  • Public and Patient advisor: Anne Daly, Public and Patient Involvement in research (PPI) advisor, PPI Ignite, University of Galway
  • Journalist Advisor: Dr. Claire O’Connell, PhD in cell biology, Masters in Science Communication. Contributor to The Irish Times, writing about health, science and innovation.

Conflict of Interest Statement: The authors have no financial or other conflicts of interest for this health claim.