July 30, 2013

Scientists – and most mobile phone users — have long wondered about the possible harmful effects of regular cellular phone use, but so far no study has managed to produce clear results. Now, a Tel Aviv University study that focuses on the spit of heavy talkers brings bad news.

Currently, cellular phones are classified as carcinogenic category 2b — potentially carcinogenic to humans — by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Dr. Yaniv Hamzany, of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery Department at the Rabin Medical Center, set out to explore the relationship between cancer rates and cell phone use by looking for clues in the saliva of major talkers.

Since the cell phone is placed close to the salivary gland when in use, he and his fellow researchers — including departmental colleagues Profs. Raphael Feinmesser, Thomas Shpitzer and Dr. Gideon Bahar and Prof. Rafi Nagler and Dr. Moshe Gavish of the Technion in Haifa — assumed that salivary content could reveal whether there was a connection to developing cancer.

The findings are not rosy. They found that the saliva of heavy users showed indications of higher oxidative stress — a process that damages all aspects of a human cell, including DNA and considered a major risk factor for cancer.

According to the researchers, a heavy mobile phone user speaks on the phone for a minimum of eight hours a month. Dr. Hamzany notes that most participants in the study took the concept of ‘yadda yadda yadda’ to a higher level – speaking as much as 40 hours a month.

Their salivary content was compared to that of a control group, which consisted of deaf patients who either do not use a cell phone or use the device exclusively for sending text messages. The heavy cell phone users had a significant increase in all salivary oxidative stress measurements studied.

“This suggests that there is considerable oxidative stress on the tissue and glands which are close to the cell phone when in use,” he says. The damage caused by oxidative stress is linked to cellular and genetic mutations which cause the development of tumors.

The findings were recently published in the journal Antioxidants and Redox Signaling.

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