Does 5G Cause Cancer?

caution radiation

First and foremost, when researchers determine that something is a carcinogen (a substance, mixture, or exposure circumstance that promotes the formation of cancer), they provide clear, specific protocols to avoid it. So far, the only things related to 5G that have been classified as a carcinogen are cellphones. In 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) put “cellphones” on its list of “Class 2B carcinogens.” For your reference, other Class 2B carcinogens include pickles, aloe vera leaf extract, and being a firefighter. The warning about cellphones from the WHO is best paraphrased as “Don’t use your cellphone as a pillow,” or the crasser “Don’t sleep with your cellphone.” That said, cancer is serious business, and this topic is more than worthy of exploration.


There are many known carcinogens. Some carcinogens, such as inhaled asbestos, certain dioxins, and tobacco smoke, have nothing to do with radioactivity. Everyone knows the danger associated with inhaled asbestos, and anyone who has renovated an old structure knows what it costs (and the lengths to which one must go) to remove the cancer threat. Similarly, cigarettes (the main delivery vehicle for tobacco smoke) have carried a health risk warning from the Surgeon General of the United States for years.

Some carcinogens are radioactive, such as electromagnetic waves in the ultraviolet, x-ray, and gamma ray areas of the electromagnetic spectrum. Should you avoid extreme exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation? Yes. There is known correlation between exposure to UV and certain types of skin cancer. This is why you are told to wear spf 50 sunblock and avoid extreme exposure to direct sunlight. It is why there is a significant industry based on the thesis that humans need to be protected from UV radiation.

But, unlike exposure to high levels of ionizing radioactive material (such as the materials used in nuclear reactors) which deterministically cause radiation sickness and may lead to death, when one analyzes the effects of exposure to low-levels of non-ionizing radiation (which we will define more clearly in a moment), one finds that cancer is a stochastic effect. In other words, the radiation we are going to discuss in this article only has a probability of correlation with the occurrence of cancer, which is a major reason (among others, including small sample size, inconsistent exposure rates and controls, short duration, etc.) peer-reviewed scientific studies have, so far, been inconclusive.

Ionizing vs. Non-ionizing Radiation

radiation scale

Source: Wikipedia

The United States Environmental Protection Agency provides the following definitions of ionizing and non-ionizing radiation:

    Non-ionizing radiation has enough energy to move atoms in a molecule around or cause them to vibrate, but not enough to remove electrons from atoms. Examples of this kind of radiation are radio waves, visible light and microwaves.

    Ionizing radiation has so much energy it can knock electrons out of atoms, a process known as ionization. Ionizing radiation can affect the atoms in living things, so it poses a health risk by damaging tissue and DNA in genes. Ionizing radiation comes from x-ray machines, cosmic particles from outer space and radioactive elements. Radioactive elements emit ionizing radiation as their atoms undergo radioactive decay.

    Radioactive decay is the emission of energy in the form of ionizing radiation. The ionizing radiation that is emitted can include alpha particles, beta particles and/or gamma rays. Radioactive decay occurs in unbalanced atoms called radionuclides.

Why Some Health Professionals and Scientists Believe 5G May Pose a Threat

In 2016, U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) published “Report of Partial Findings from the National Toxicology Program Carcinogenesis Studies of Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation in Hsd: Sprague Dawley® SD rats (Whole Body Exposures).” It’s not exactly light reading, but basically the report details a study where mice and rats were exposed to extreme levels of radiation in the frequency range of cellphones. After two years of “whole body exposure,” there were an elevated number of mice afflicted with heart tumors in the exposed group. This study has been highly criticized. Google it. You won’t believe the number of articles about articles about articles.

Then there’s the Ramazzini Institute Study of far-field radiation effects on rats. Like the NTP study above, there is no consensus regarding the results of the Ramazzini Institute Study. This is worth Googling too. Same issue.

How These Studies Relate to the Rollout of 5G

There are some people who believe (and argue) that because the density of 5G network towers will be greater than that of previous wireless networks, and because 5G networks will include wavelengths of higher frequencies than those of previous wireless networks, the risks suggested by NTP, Ramazzini, and other studies will be elevated. It is important to note that a few very competent scientists and health professionals have been quite vocal on the subject.

That said, most of the doctors, radiologists, and physicists I’ve spoken to about this roll their eyes and wonder why tanning salons are not banned worldwide. Remember UV? That’s the type of electromagnetic radiation that makes humans tan. And extreme levels of UV (like those you receive in a tanning bed) are much more powerful than anything a 5G tower or device could expose you to.

My Advice

There are many things in the world that you should care deeply about and pay close attention to. I won’t give you my list, but I will tell you that fear of cancer from 5G networks and devices is not on it.

Safety Tip

Don’t put yourself in an environment where you are exposed to high levels of any type of radiation. Where might that be? Such places are so rare, they are generally marked with big yellow signs that say, “Warning – Radiation Area.” That is not a warning I expect to ever see on a 5G device or network tower.

Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.

About Shelly Palmer

Named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Technology, Shelly Palmer is CEO of The Palmer Group, a strategy, design and engineering firm focused at the nexus of technology, media and marketing. He is Fox 5 New York's on-air tech and digital media expert, writes a weekly column for AdAge, and is a regular commentator on CNBC and CNN. Follow @shellypalmer or visit or subscribe to our daily email

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"Does 5G Cause Cancer?" by @ShellyPalmer

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