Will the Cellular Apple Watch Cause Cancer?

apple watch series 3 lte

If left always on, I think there is a fair chance at some point people will determine that cellular Apple Watches cause cancer. Apple should investigate this possibility and do what it can to mitigate.

apple watch series 3 lte
Mobile Data on Apple Watch Series 3

Airplane Mode is Your Friend

For a little perspective, don’t go running with your hair on fire to throw your Apple Watch into the trash. I own an Apple Watch. I even wear it every day. However, my Apple Watch is always in Airplane mode.

Why?  Well, first, because then I can wear it for long periods of time without needing to recharge it—it lasts 3 days between charges in Airplane mode. Second, because I find most Apple Watch apps useless. But third, and most importantly, I believe it is inevitable that people will discover that wireless technology causes cancer.

The Math of: No it Doesn’t, Yes it Does

In fact, I believe that this is more a math problem than it is a debate of scientific studies. The bottom line is, the more exposed you are to RF radiation, the more likely you are to have a random DNA-bit flipped that spawns a mutation, i.e., cancerous growth.

Now there have been dozens of “yes, cellphones cause cancer”, “no, cellphones do not cause cancer” studies. To me, that sounds amazingly like what happened with the tobacco industry for decades. That includes one recent study by the US National Toxicology Program (NTP) that shows an increase in tumors in rats exposed to cellphone radiation (albeit at exposures which are at greater levels than most cell phone users experience).

However, I think that there is something people are not paying attention to. The Apple Watch 3 now sports a cellular transceiver strapped to your arm as much as 24 hours a day. Every day. This seems beyond NTP rat-like exposure, and perhaps even beyond the long exposures that caused many Connecticut cops to contract testicular and brain cancer from their radar guns.

With many radiation safety protocols, you reduce radiation injury by increasing distance, decreasing time exposed, and increasing shielding, whereas the Apple Watch seems to be doing the opposite.

In my totally non-expert, non-learned, non-medically-trained, non-scientific, monkey-at-best opinion, it is a near certainty and inevitability that such constant close contact and exposure will increase the odds of a radiation-induced-DNA-bit-flip and cause cancer. [Update: Even the CDC is noting that the “International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified RF radiation as a ‘possible human carcinogen.’”]


Personally, I would like to see Apple do something to mitigate against this possibility. Apple should implement a ‘minimize-RF-mode’ for the Apple Watch. It would work like Airplane mode and turn off all the RF transceivers on the watch. This would have the added benefit of saving a ton of battery life. And then, only when you turn your wrist to see the time, would it temporarily turn on the transceivers, get a burst download/upload of what was needed, and then turn off soon thereafter.

Such a mode would also block out a lot of interruptions, including emergency texts and notifications. Overall, blocking out a bit more noise, these days, for me at least, is more a feature than it is a bug.

I wonder if Apple has thought about this issue, and if the company has done any studies or experiments in this regard. If so, I wonder if Apple would share its findings on the issue. If not, I wonder if it should?

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Thanks to wab95 for picking up this thread. I got derailed with other things and couldn’t get back to it. John this is not a matter of opinion. It is a matter of evidence. Like on CSI you follow the evidence. The evidence shows clearly that not only do cell broadcasts not cause cancer, they do not produce the genetic changes that MIGHT cause cancer. wab95 has given you links to some of the definitive articles on the subject. Sorry, but Well and Scientific American are popular press, not peer reviewed technical journals. No the articles don’t go both ways.… Read more »

W. Abdullah Brooks, MD

John: I appreciate your spirited response. Since you appear to question my motives in my earlier comments, let me try this again, piecemeal. “I think there is a fair chance at some point people will determine that cellular Apple Watches cause cancer” “But third, and most importantly, I believe it is inevitable that people will discover that wireless technology causes cancer” “In fact, I believe that this is more a math problem than it is a debate of scientific studies” We’re all entitled to our beliefs. Enough said. No problems here. But this is not why there are contradictory studies… Read more »

W. Abdullah Brooks, MD

John: Where to begin? Let me start with a disclaimer. I’ve just returned from a scientific conference and series of meetings in Sub-Saharan Africa late last night, and am both exhausted (albeit exhilarated) and jet-lagged. That said, my admittedly hasty read of your article leads me to shake my head in bewilderment, not because you could pose this question, but that such is the state of scientific literacy in an otherwise affluent and educated society that such unsubstantiated ideas can even find traction, let alone persist in the absence of evidence; and by evidence I intend facts obtained using appropriate,… Read more »


Will Google Glass and Android Gear, and Fitbit and all the others cause cancer? Will anyone care? or will they only care if Apple causes cancer? Hmm.


“Will the Cellular Apple Watch Cause Cancer?” No, but, FWIW, here’s a list of things that will dramatically shorten your life that most people don’t seem to worry about: 1. Illicit sex of all kinds, i.e., sexual encounters outside of heterosexual marriage, 2. Excessive consumption of alcohol, 3. Mind-altering drugs, including marijuana (if used to excess), 4. High risk endeavors, like skiing in the Alps on remote ski slopes, armed robbery, and general law-breaking. 5. Abortion (if you’re an unborn baby). California is in a financial and cultural mess because its inhabitants worry about small things like cell phone signals… Read more »

Judy Kim

i’m with you on this one man


No. Next question.

There has been NO evidance found dispute decades of study that would suggest ANY link between cellphone RF radiation and cellular or DNA changes, let aline cancer. None. Nada. Zip.

I’m actually dissapolinted that you posted this.

Graham McKay

I would like to see Apple do something to mitigate against this possibility. I’d think that based on the corporate/legal environment we operate in, that if there was even the slightest admission that RF from a device gives a larger chance of illness than “normal” living, then the only available mitigation is to cease production and issue a recall. The tobacco & alcohol industries get away with it, I think, because their underlying products have been embedded in culture for centuries. [sarcasm]Or maybe Apple’s billions of dollars could be used to convince legislators that a warning screen whenever you turn… Read more »

Judy Kim

you must work for Apple

Judy Kim

oops, i ment to respond to the other thread .


Yes it’s best to minimize RF. I have a cellular series 3 watch and if my phone is with me I will put it in airplane mode. If it’s connected to Bluetooth I assume the RF is less. WiFi is probably better maybe. I only turn on Cellular on my watch when I put my phone in my pocket and it’s on airplane mode cause I don’t want the RF too close to me for my phone. This is very convenient. When I’m in the car I like to have it on Bluetooth so I can use it as a… Read more »


Really if it’s on WiFi the cellular button is white and not green. Are you sure cellular is still connected even when in WiFi? How do you know that?


This is silly. The cellular radio in the Apple Watch 3 is only on when it is not in the presence of the paired iPhone or a known Wi-Fi network. In my case, that’s only about 4% of the time, on a good week, when I go for a run.


Seriously??? You had to start this meme? What…nothing else going on in the world today? Coming up on deadline with writers block? sheesh….