Cell Phones and Increased Risk of Brain Tumors – Is There a Connection?

Does cell phone use have anything to do with an increased risk of developing brain tumors? The issue has been debated for years and it appears the latest study has done little to settle the matter.

It was only last year that a “new” long-term study by the British Institute of Cancer Research reported that there is still no credible evidence that cell phones cause brain tumors.

Researchers considered studies from Britain, Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, countries which were some of the first to have cell phones, and evaluated the possible health impact of cell phone use over the last decade.

The study, which was published in the British Journal of Cancer, considered the risk of acoustic neuroma, or benign tumors that grow in the nerve connecting the ear and inner ear to the brain. This nerve is near to where cell phones are held against the head.

Anthony Swerdlow of the British Institute said that results showed “no substantial risk in the first decade after starting use.” Those scientists and others, however, concede that risks over a longer time period cannot be ruled out.

While there is a possibility cell phones can cause other kinds of brain tumors, scientists believe acoustic neuroma would be the most likely. No study has actually demonstrated that cell phone use poses a significant health hazard.

Although mobile phone manufacturers claim there is no substantial evidence that cell phone radiation causes harm, other studies have suggested radiation may have some adverse effects on the human body. These include the heating up of the brain and causing headaches and nausea.

It must be remembered that cell “phones” are not really telephones at all; they are radio transmitters and receivers.

A traditional telephone converts sound waves into electrical energy that is then carried by means of a network of wires, fiber optic cables, or transmitters to a receiver that converts the electrical energy back into sound. No electromagnetic radiation is generated in the actual headset that users hold next to their ear.

Cell (or mobile) phones, however, immediately convert sound into electromagnetic radiation (radio waves) in order to send the call to the nearest commercial transmitter (cell site) where it is boosted in strength for transmission to the person receiving the call. On that end, the electromagnetic waves are converted back into sound waves.

Thus, on both ends of the call (assuming the receiver is also a cell phone) the customer’s head is in close proximity to the transmission or reception of electromagnetic radiation. That fact alone suggests that hands-free devices, which place the cell phone away from the head, are better options if an individual makes extensive use of cell phone.

As with any other exposure-related risk, the extent of the exposure (daily average) and the duration (years of exposure) are variables that will affect the ultimate result. Clearly, using a cell phone for only a few minutes a day on an intermittent basis should be significantly less of a risk than using the device for hours at a time on a daily basis for many years.

It may also be years before any serious long-term negative health effects of cell phone use become manifest in the general population. If other cancers related to exposure to toxins such as cigarette smoke and asbestos are any indication, it may be decades before this health issue is definitively resolved one way or the other.

In the last decade cell phone use has increased dramatically worldwide. About 780 million mobile phones were expected to be sold in 2005 and almost 2 billion people now use cell phones around the world.

The latest study, which is published in the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, was conducted in Sweden. It suggests that people who use a cell phone for at least one hour a day over the course of many years are some 240% (about 2 ½ times) more likely to develop a brain tumor than a non-user.

Tumors were found to be located on the side of the head where the cell phone was positioned during use.

The study considered 1,810 people (ages 20-80) divided equally between those with a malignant brain tumor (905) and a healthy control group (905).

In the group with malignancies, 85 of the 905 subjects turned out to be people who had used cell phones extensively (about one hour each day) for many years. The researchers defined extensive use as being a total of over 2,000 hours over a period of several years.

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