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Cell Phone Use Among Kids Could Lead to Brain Cancer Epidemic

2009-11-23 - 12:34 GMT

Cell Phone Use Among Kids Could Lead to Brain Cancer Epidemic

Children and teens who use cell phones are five times more likely to get brain cancer, according to a new study.  The new research raises fears that today’s young people may suffer an “epidemic” of the brain cancer in later life.

Concern has been growing about the health risks of cell phone use for some time.  In July, the director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and UPMC Cancer Centers issued an internal advisory memo to about 3,000 faculty and staff members advising them to take precautions to avoid the possible cancer risks of cell phones.  It marked the first time that a major U.S. cancer center had ever issued such an advisory.  The memo advised that children – whose brains are still developing – only use cell phones in emergencies. Adults should keep the phone away from the head and use the speakerphone or a wireless headset, the memo said.

This latest study, conducted by Swedish researchers,  found that teenagers who started using mobiles at young age were five times more likely to suffer from glioma, a type of primary central nervous system  tumor that arises from glial cells.  And, those who started using cell phones in their 20s were twice as likely to get the tumor.

According to lead researcher Lennart Hardell of University Hospital Orebro, kids’ thinner skulls and developing nervous systems make them particularly vulnerable to tumors, and as their heads are smaller and their skulls are thinner, the electromagnetic radiation from cell phones penetrates deeper into their brains.

“This is a warning sign. It’s very worrying. We should be taking precautions” Prof Hardell said, adding children under 12 should use cell phones only in case of emergencies and that teenagers should use hands-free devices or headsets.

Other researchers have also raised alarms over cell phone dangers this past year.  Earlier this year, an Australian neurosurgeon published a paper on the Internet saying cell phone use “has far broader public health ramifications than asbestos and smoking.” The doctor, Vini Khurana, analyzed data from more than 100 studies, and concluded that most weren’t long enough to uncover a risk of brain cancer and that children haven’t been adequately studied.

A few small studies have also indicated a link between cell phones and some types of tumors. For instance, earlier this year, a study conducted by researchers at Tel Aviv University found a link between prolonged cell phone use and cancer. According to the study, people who use cell phones for lengthy periods of time every day were 50 percent more likely to develop both benign or malignant tumors in their parotid gland, the main saliva-producing gland that is located between the jaw and ear.

Last week, the European Parliament voted to recommend tighter safety standards for cell phones. In light of the growing body of scientific evidence implicating cell phone use with brain tumors, the Parliament says, “The limits on exposure to electromagnetic fields which have been set for the general public are obsolete.”


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