Heavy users of mobile phones are 50 percent more likely to develop cancer of the salivary glands, according to a new study conducted by researchers at Tel Aviv University and published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Researchers studied 500 Israelis who had tumors of the salivary gland, and compared their cell phone usage to 1300 Israelis who did not have such tumors. They found that those who use cellular phones several hours per day against the same side of the head had a 50 percent higher tumor risk than those who used phones less frequently.
Rural residents with heavy mobile phone use had an even higher tumor risk, compared with urban users. The researchers speculated that this could be due to the higher radiation dose needed for mobile phones to function in areas with fewer towers.
A number of studies have linked heavy mobile phone use the health problems such as sleep disruption and brain cancer. While the mobile phone industry often says that studies have proved the devices safe, the researchers noted that these studies tend to look only a short-term exposure, whereas radiation-related health problems may often take up to a decade before symptoms develop.
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The researchers said that carrying out studies in Israel, where the level of mobile phone use (and thus radiation exposure) is very high, can give insight otherwise only available from a longer-term study.
“Compared to other studies, the amount of exposure to radiofrequency radiation we saw here was much higher,” said lead researcher Siegal Sadetzki. “If you like, you’re seeing what could happen elsewhere ‘speeded-up’ in Israel.”
The researchers also noted that many studies look only for brain tumors, and not other health problems like the one examined in the current study. This could be because cancer of the salivary gland is normally quite rare, accounting, for example, for only 0.23 percent of all cancers diagnosed in the United Kingdom each year.