The full findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a specialist agency within the World Health Organization (WHO), evaluating the carcinogenic hazard of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF EMF) to humans, were published on 19 April 2013. Click here to see the full monograph 102.


The IARC Working Group originally met in May 2011 to classify the cancer hazard of RF-EMF, including those from broadcast and mobile communications, microwaves and radar. This process resulted in RF-EMF being classified as "possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, associated with wireless phone use." A summary of their findings was published in The Lancet Oncology, which concluded that there is "limited evidence in humans" for the carcinogenicity of RF-EMF. The full report, Monograph 102, confirms the 2B classification, which was originally made in May 2011.


The IARC Working Group recognised that “mobile-phone technology has transformed the world, making wireless communication rapidly available, especially in less developed countries, with important benefits to society”. However, it also noted that “an increasingly large population will be exposed, and for longer and longer periods of time” and that “undoubtedly, questions will continue to arise about the health risks of mobile- phone use and possibly other emerging sources of exposure to RF radiation.”


The full IARC report (or ‘Monograph’) states that it “is focused on the potential for an increased risk of cancer among those exposed to RF radiation, but does not provide a quantitative assessment of any cancer risk, nor does it discuss or evaluate any other potential health effects of RF radiation.”


The Monograph explains that it provides a “comprehensive review of the currently published evidence that also identifies gaps in the available information. These gaps should be resolved with further research if on-going concerns about the health risks of mobile-phone use are to be addressed with greater certainty.”


Dr Jack Rowley, Senior Director of Research and Sustainability for the GSMA, said of Monograph 102, “Although this is not new research, the full report provides important details about IARC’s assessment, including how it relates to the overall health assessment of mobile phone technologies and health.”


The IARC classification only considers whether there is a possible link between long-term heavy mobile device use and cancer, it does not assess the likelihood of this link arising. To understand the likelihood and therefore the potential risk posed, the WHO will carry out a wider health risk assessment, which will take into account all the available science relating to RF and health, including the IARC classification and work done by ICNIRP, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2015/16. Based on this assessment the WHO, governments and public health authorities will decide what further advice, if any, is needed.


The latest WHO fact sheet published in June 2011 concluded that to date, no adverse health effects had been established as being caused by mobile phone use.


Vodafone recognises that people may wish to consider reducing their exposure to RF EMF, and continues to offer advice on how to do this.


For further information on the IARC classification, please visit IARC Explained or IARC monographs