Nicky Blackburn
February 19, 2008, Updated September 13, 2012

Is your phone safe? A new report suggests that people who are heavy users of cell phones are 50 percent more likely to develop tumors.Heavy cell phone use has been linked to the development of cancer in the salivary gland, according to a new report by an Israeli scientist.

Dr. Siegal Sadetzki, a physician, epidemiologist and lecturer at Tel Aviv University, discovered that people who use a cell phone for lengthy periods every day are 50 percent more likely to develop rare benign or malignant tumors of the main salivary gland (parotid), located near the jaw and ear, than those who did not use cell phones.

She also found that mobile users who live in rural areas with few antennas have an increased risk of cancer than people living in the cities, because cell phones have to emit more radiation for effective communication.

Israelis adopted cell phone technology early and are heavy users, said Sadetzki, who carried out her research at the Gertner Institute for Epidemiology and Health Policy Research at Sheba Medical Center. She found this fact played a significant role in her work.

“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,” she explained.

“This unique population has given us an indication that cell phone use is associated with cancer,” she added.

Sadetzki’s research, which was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, is part of the international Interphone Study, which is working to determine whether there is a link between cell phones and several types of brain and parotid gland tumors.

The majority of studies in the past have not found an increased risk of cancer among people who use mobile phones, but Sadetzki says this is because the studies have focused on brain tumors and did not include long-term users.

Sadetzki and colleagues studied 500 Israelis diagnosed with benign and malignant tumors of the salivary gland. Subjects gave details about how frequently they used cell phones, and the average length of calls. Their responses were then compared to 1,300 healthy control subjects.

In the Western world today, it is estimated that more than 90 percent of the population uses cell phones. As the technology gets cheaper and more widely available, it is being used by an increasing number of people.

Sadetzki, who has appeared before Israel’s Knesset to discuss the risks of mobile phones on health, said she was particularly concerned about the effects not only on heavy users, but also on children, who are increasingly adopting cell phone technology.

She said further research and longer studies were necessary to confirm the results of her study, but added that people should take precautionary measures in the meantime. “While I think this technology is here to stay, I believe precautions should be taken in order to diminish the exposure and lower the risk for health hazards,” she said.

She recommends that both children and adults always use hands-free devices, and hold the phone away from the body when talking. She also suggests that less frequent calls that are shorter in duration could have some preventative effect. “Some technology that we use today carries a risk. The question is not if we use it, but how we use it,” she adds.


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