Washington, Feb 15: In a new study, an Israeli scientist has found that those indulging in heavy cell phone usage were prone to a higher risk of benign and malignant tumors of the salivary gland.
Dr. Siegal Sadetzki and her colleagues at Tel Aviv University found that people using on the side of the head where the tumor developed had a higher risk of about 50pct for developing a tumor of the main salivary gland (parotid), as compared to those who did not use cell phones. The study investigated nearly 500 people who had been diagnosed with benign and malignant tumors of the salivary gland and it was significant that it was done on Israeli population.
"Unlike people in other countries, Israelis were quick to adopt cell phone technology and have continued to be exceptionally heavy users. Therefore, the amount of exposure to radiofrequency radiation found in this study has been higher than in previous cell phone studies. This unique population has given us an indication that cell phone use is associated with cancer," said Sadetzki.
In the study, the subjects were asked to detail their cell phone use patterns in terms of how frequently they used one, and the average length of calls. Later they were compared to a sample of about 1,300 healthy control subjects.
Heavy users who lived in rural areas were also found to have an increased risk of cancer. This is because cell phones in rural areas need to emit more radiation to communicate effectively, due to fewer antennas.
Sadetzki speculated that the greatest effects will be found in heavy users and children over a period of time. She explained that while anecdotal evidence has been substantial, the consistency of the results of this study support an association between cell phone use and these tumors. The risks have been hard to prove, mainly due to the long latency period involved in cancer development.
Currently, it is estimated that more than 90pct of the Western world uses cell phones. As the technology becomes cheaper and more accessible, its usage by a greater number of people, including children, is bound to increase.
"While I think this technology is here to stayI believe precautions should be taken in order to diminish the exposure and lower the risk for health hazards," said Sadetzki.
She advised that people use hands-free devices at all times, and when talking, hold the phone away from one's body. Less frequent calls, shorter in duration, should also have some preventative effect. Though she appreciates the ease of communication that cell phones allow between parents and their children, she insists that parents need to consider at what age their children start using them.
Parents should be vigilant about their children's using speakers or hands-free devices, and about limiting the number of calls and amount of time their children spend on the phone.
"Some technology that we use today carries a risk. The question is not if we use it, but how we use it," concluded Sadetzki.
The results of this study are published recently in the American Journal of Epidemiology.