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Ronald B. Herberman, MD  Director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) and UPMC Cancer Centers Memo on Precautionary Cell Phone Use to UPCI Staff

Nov 1, 2017


MEMORANDUM TO: UPCI Faculty and Staff

FROM: Ronald B. Herberman, MD  Director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) and UPMC Cancer Centers (UPMCCC)

SUBJECT: Important Precautionary Advice Regarding Cell Phone Use

DATE: July 21, 2008

Recently I have become aware of the growing body of literature linking long-term cell phone use to possible adverse health effects including cancer. Although the evidence is still controversial, I am convinced that there are sufficient data to warrant issuing an advisory to share some precautionary advice on cell phone use.

An international expert panel of pathologists, oncologists and public health specialists recently declared that electromagnetic fields emitted by cell phones should be considered a potential human health risk (see The Case for Precaution in Cell Phone Use, attached). To date, a number of countries including France, Germany and India have issued recommendations that exposure to electromagnetic fields should be limited. In addition, Toronto’s Department of Public Health is advising teenagers and young children to limit their use of cell phones, to avoid potential health risks.


More definitive data that cover the health effects from prolonged cell phone use have been compiled by the World Health Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer. However, publication has been delayed for two years. In anticipation of release of the WHO report, the attached prudent and simple precautions, intended to promote precautionary efforts to reduce exposures to cell phone electromagnetic radiation, have been reviewed by UPCI experts in neuro-oncology, epidemiology, neurosurgery and the Center for Environmental Oncology.


For more in-depth information on this subject, please see the complete article (pdf file, 100kb)

Practical Advice to Limit Exposure to Electromagnetic Radiation Emitted from Cell Phones

  1. Do not allow children to use a cell phone, except for emergencies. The developing organs of a fetus or child are the most likely to be sensitive to any possible effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields.
  2. While communicating using your cell phone, try to keep the cell phone away from the body as much as possible. The amplitude of the electromagnetic field is one fourth the strength at a distance of two inches and fifty times lower at three feet. Whenever possible, use the speaker-phone mode or a wireless Bluetooth headset, which has less than 1/100th of the electromagnetic emission of a normal cell phone. Use of a hands-free ear piece attachment may also reduce exposures.
  3. Avoid using your cell phone in places, like a bus, where you can passively expose others to your phone’s electromagnetic fields.
  4. Avoid carrying your cell phone on your body at all times. Do not keep it near your body at night such as under the pillow or on a bedside table, particularly if pregnant. You can also put it on “flight” or “off-line” mode, which stops electromagnetic emissions.
  5. If you must carry your cell phone on you, make sure that the keypad is positioned toward your body and the back is positioned toward the outside so that the transmitted electromagnetic fields move away from your rather than through you.
  6. Only use your cell phone to establish contact or for conversations lasting a few minutes, as the biological effects are directly related to the duration of exposure.
  7. For longer conversations, use a land line with a corded phone, not a cordless phone, which uses electromagnetic emitting technology similar to that of cell phones.
  8. Switch sides regularly while communicating on your cell phone to spread out your exposure. Before putting your cell phone to the ear, wait until your correspondent has picked up. This limits the power of the electromagnetic field emitted near your ear and the duration of your exposure.
  9. Avoid using your cell phone when the signal is weak or when moving at high speed, such as in a car or train, as this automatically increases power to a maximum as the phone repeatedly attempts to connect to a new relay antenna.
  10. When possible, communicate via text messaging rather than making a call, limiting the duration of exposure and the proximity to the body.
  11. Choose a device with the lowest SAR possible (SAR = Specific Absorption Rate, which is a measure of the strength of the magnetic field absorbed by the body). SAR ratings of contemporary phones by different manufacturers are available by searching for “sar ratings cell phones” on the internet.

UPMC Media Relations

© 2017 University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute

Note: This PDF was created from the UPMC MEMO. which was based on  “The Case for Precaution in Cell Phone Use”



New York Times, Prominent Cancer Doctor Warns About Cellphones, July 24, 2008

CNET: Cancer doc urges cell phone precaution July 24, 2008

NBC News,  Cancer center director warns of cell phone risks July 24 , 2008

FOX News Pittsburgh Cancer Center Warns of Risk From Cell Phone Use, July 24, 2008

Congressional Hearing Domestic Policy Subcommittee Oversight and Government Reform Committee 2008 Statement Of Ronald B. Herberman, MD Director University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and UPMC Cancer Centers “Tumors and Cell Phone use: What the Science Says

Dr. Herberman MEMORANDUM TO- UPCI Faculty and Staff (2)



 UPMC MEMO The Case for Precaution in Cell Phone Use