I was heating up some lunch in the microwave oven at work a few weeks ago, and peered into the window to see if my soup was bubbling yet. At that point a coworker walked into the lunch room and exclaimed "Get your head away from the microwave, it'll give you brain tumors!" or something like that.

Is there any research or evidence that close proximity to a microwave oven, frequently or infrequently, will give you tumors or other health issues?


1 Answer 1


Microwave ovens allow a maximum leak amount of only 5mW, which is really small1.

If more radiation were let out, you would experience microwave burns2.

Microwave radiation is non-ionizing. Differently from x-rays and gamma rays, the microwave photons simply do not have enough energy to cause cancer through ionization3.

Given the previous well-known facts:

  1. If you are not burned, you are not being affected by microwaves because they don't leak out.
  2. If you were to get burned, you would still have no ionizing radiation impact.

Finally, research shows that microwave-length radiation does not cause cancer, but the studies relate mostly to different kinds of microwaves (for example the waves emitted by a cell phone)4.

1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microwave_oven#Direct_microwave_exposure
2: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microwave_burn
3: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ionizing_radiation
4: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21084892

  • 2
    Just for comparison to the maximum leaks: Wireless LAN devices b/g (2.4ghz) have an allowed maximum of 100mW in Germany. There are even cards with 300mW and even 1W available (which are not legal to use here, they should be in the US). There are concerns that these actually can cause damage if too close to the body (eg laptop), but as far as I know there are no studies. Why am I talking about W-LAN here? Same frequency as microwave ovens. compare to this question: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/1178/…
    – Baarn
    Commented Feb 4, 2012 at 11:21
  • 3
    Why do you assume ionizing radiation would be the only kind of radiation causing cancer?
    – vartec
    Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 8:57
  • 4
    Radiation causes cancer by ionizing DNA in a manner than happens to be problematic. Hence, if the radiation is not energetic enough to ionize it, it won't cause cancer. Sure, it's technically possible, but it's about as probable as quantum mechanics deciding to do that transition anyway, just because.
    – zebediah49
    Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 0:15
  • 6
    "Microwave only allow a maximum leak amount of 5mW" - What your source actually says is "5mW per square centimeter". See also Commented May 27, 2014 at 9:56
  • 1
    As Danny is saying I also have a bit of an issue with the 5mW quote. Microwave significantly interferes with bluetooth and wifi which operate in the same spectrum.
    – domen
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 12:41

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