No, NCC, mobile phones are not causing cancer

You might have seen reports like this one by the Premium Times, about the NCC blaming “sub-standard” phones for things like “cancer” and “network interruptions” [emphasis mine]:

“The Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, on Thursday warned Nigerians against the use of sub-standard phones, saying this was responsible for some cancer ailments

[…]

Mr. Olorundare lamented that fake phones had taken over the country’s phone market, adding that they have had negative implications on the health of users.”

Hogwash. Claims of cell phones or cellular infrastructure causing cancer are not new; they are the stuff of phony WhatsApp broadcasts, and it’s easy to see why people believe them. Cell phones emit non-ionizing radiation and the parts of our bodies closest to the antennas (think: ear, brain) absorb this energy. But this kind of radiation is different from, say, X-Rays, which actually could increase cancer risk. Study, after study, after study, have shown that there is no *significant* correlation between cell phone use and cancer incidence, plus, we should have seen a steep uptick in the number of cancer cases since exponentially more people are making exponentially more phone calls than ever before (which, needless to say, is not the case).

Second, no matter which source/proxy you choose (usage data from web publisher analytics, Google search trends, shipment reports from research firms like IDC), most of the phones sold in Nigeria are made by Samsung, Transsion Holdings (Tecno, Infinix, and iTel), and Huawei, and I wouldn’t call any of their phones “fake”, talk less of saying fake phones have “taken over”.

In the same vein, when you consider that these phones all use the same MediaTek SoCs (containing the same CPUs, same RAM modules, same GPUs, same IO interfaces, etc), same Qualcomm or HiSilicon baseband chips, from the same production lines in Shenzhen, the entire argument falls apart. They are simply branded differently, and the only difference between a “fake” phone and an “original” one is that the NCC or some other body has not “approved” it:

“The NCC official also identified unapproved phones as a major cause of network interruptions.

He said the preponderance of substandard phones was causing colossal damage to network services and health of users.”

Yes, there have been reports online of horrible network deterioration in Nigeria, especially in the past few months. But it is not clear if the NCC is saying that a percentage of the population using “sub-standard” (read: “unapproved”) phones are somehow damaging cell towers et al and making the experience worse for everyone else, in which case… ah.

*scribbles down idea for science fiction novel*