More than 270 million Americans have cell phones, and they spend an average of 12½ hours on them each month, despite the ongoing anxiety about the effect such use has on our bodies. In general, studies have found no connection between cell phone use and brain cancer, but experts and others still have questions.
Cell phone users are exposed to a form of electromagnetic radiation called radio frequency energy, also known as RF. Although RF isn't the same kind of radiation as that emitted by an X-ray machine or a nuclear warhead, Oz said a growing number of experts fear people may be increasing their risk by holding the phone so close to their head,s and that it will take more time and studies to come to a conclusion about cell phone dangers.
Cell phones send out signals to the tower so the device may be identified. This means that radiation comes into the phone and is sent out from it as well.
"The cell phone has to send a wave out in order to find a tower near you," Oz explained. "The waves go into your brain -- they have to."
CTIA, the wireless industry's association, referred "GMA" to a statement from the American Cancer Society.
In the statement, the ACS said: "In general, expert agencies agree that most evidence to date does not point to cell phone use increasing the risk of tumors, but that more research is needed to look at possible long-term effects."
The Food and Drug Administration said in a statement that "So far, studies have not shown any bad effects for anyone from cell phone RF."
While there is no conclusive study that says cell phone use does cause brain cancer, Israel, France and the United Kingdom have issued precautionary warnings about using cell phones, Oz said.
"Until recently I think those [studies] were pretty good encapsulations of what was found," Oz said. "But there have been recent studies that have been alarming." He said studies need to track people's cell phone use for longer periods of time.
While Oz doesn't believe people need to stop using their cell phones, he said it doesn't hurt to change the way they are used, particularly by children. Childrens' skulls are thinner than those of adults -- at least until they're 13 or 14-years old -- so any potential cell phone risk would be that much greater for them.
Children under 14 should send text messages or use head sets or phones on speaker phone.
"Children ought to be texting if they can," Oz said.
Use a headset or speaker phone. Corded headsets emit almost no RF, and using a headset or speaker phone allows you to move the device away from your body. Even moving the phone 4 inches away from your head reduces RF exposure 1,000 times.
Stay off the phone if the signal is poor. Fewer signal bars mean the phone has to work harder to get a signal, so it may emit more RF. Also, don't talk when you're driving. In addition to the dangers of being distracted, people who are behind the wheel while they're on their cell phones may face an increased RF exposure risk. That's because the phone signal must move to several wireless towers.
"Those waves have to boost up from your cell phone to find the towers," Oz explained. "If you're in an elevator, same thing."