The risks of using mobile phone

Mobile phone use 'raises children's risk of brain cancer fivefold'

By Geoffrey Lean

Children and teenagers are five times more likely to get brain cancer if they use mobile phones, startling new research indicates.

The study, experts say, raises fears that today's young people may suffer an "epidemic" of the disease in later life. At least nine out of 10 British 16-year-olds have their own handset, as do more than 40 per cent of primary schoolchildren.

Yet investigating dangers to the young has been omitted from a massive £3.1m British investigation of the risks of cancer from using mobile phones, launched this year, even though the official Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research (MTHR) Programme – which is conducting it – admits that the issue is of the "highest priority".

Despite recommendations of an official report that the use of mobiles by children should be "minimised", the Government has done almost nothing to discourage it.

Last week the European Parliament voted by 522 to 16 to urge ministers across Europe to bring in stricter limits for exposure to radiation from mobile and cordless phones, Wi-fi and other devices, partly because children are especially vulnerable to them. They are more at risk because their brains and nervous systems are still developing and because – since their heads are smaller and their skulls are thinner – the radiation penetrates deeper into their brains.

The Swedish research was reported this month at the first international conference on mobile phones and health.

It sprung from a further analysis of data from one of the biggest studies carried out into the risk that the radiation causes cancer, headed by Professor Lennart Hardell of the University Hospital in Orebro, Sweden. Professor Hardell told the conference – held at the Royal Society by the Radiation Research Trust – that "people who started mobile phone use before the age of 20" had more than five-fold increase in glioma", a cancer of the glial cells that support the central nervous system. The extra risk to young people of contracting the disease from using the cordless phone found in many homes was almost as great, at more than four times higher.

Those who started using mobiles young, he added, were also five times more likely to get acoustic neuromas, benign but often disabling tumours of the auditory nerve, which usually cause deafness.

By contrast, people who were in their twenties before using handsets were only 50 per cent more likely to contract gliomas and just twice as likely to get acoustic neuromas.

Professor Hardell told the IoS: "This is a warning sign. It is very worrying. We should be taking precautions." He believes that children under 12 should not use mobiles except in emergencies and that teenagers should use hands-free devices or headsets and concentrate on texting. At 20 the danger diminishes because then the brain is fully developed. Indeed, he admits, the hazard to children and teenagers may be greater even than his results suggest, because the results of his study do not show the effects of their using the phones for many years. Most cancers take decades to develop, longer than mobile phones have been on the market.

The research has shown that adults who have used the handsets for more than 10 years are much more likely to get gliomas and acoustic neuromas, but he said that there was not enough data to show how such relatively long-term use would increase the risk for those who had started young.

He wants more research to be done, but the risks to children will not be studied in the MTHR study, which will follow 90,000 people in Britain. Professor David Coggon, the chairman of the programmes management committee, said they had not been included because other research was being done on young people by a study at Sweden's Kariolinska Institute.

He said: "It looks frightening to see a five-fold increase in cancer among people who started use in childhood," but he said he "would be extremely surprised" if the risk was shown to be so high once all the evidence was in.

But David Carpenter, dean of the School of Public Health at the State University of NewYork – who also attended the conference – said: "Children are spending significant time on mobile phones. We may be facing a public health crisis in an epidemic of brain cancers as a result of mobile phone use."

In 2000 and 2005, two official inquiries under Sir William Stewart, a former government chief scientist, recommended the use of mobile phones by children should be "discouraged" and "minimised".

But almost nothing has been done, and their use by the young has more than doubled since the turn of the millennium.

Source : The Independent

Cell phones can affect sperm quality

Keeping a cell phone on talk mode in a pocket can decrease sperm quality, according to new research from the Cleveland Clinic.

"We believe that these devices are used because we consider them very safe, but it could cause harmful effects due to the proximity of the phones and the exposure that they are causing to the gonads," says lead researcher Ashok Agarwal, the Director of the Center for Reproductive Medicine.

In the small study, Agarwal's team took semen samples from 32 men and brought them to the lab. Each man's sample was placed into small, conical tubes and divided into two parts: a test group and a control group. The control group was unexposed to cell phone emissions, but kept under the same conditions and temperature as the test group.

The semen in the test group was placed 2.5 centimeters from an 850 MHz cell phone in talk mode for 1 hour. Researchers say that 850 MHz is the most commonly used frequency.

They used the measurement of 2.5 centimeters to mimic the distance between the trouser pocket and the testes. Agarwal reasoned that many men keep their active cell phones in their pants pocket while talking on their headsets.

Overall, researchers found an increase in oxidative stress such as a significant increase in free radicals and oxidants and a decrease in antioxidants. Agarwal says that equals a decrease in sperm's quality, including motility and viability. Evidence of oxidative stress can appear under other conditions, including exposure to certain environmental pollutants or infections in the urinary genital tract.

"On average, there was an 85 percent increase in the amount of free radicals for all the subjects in the study. Free radicals have been linked to a variety of diseases in humans including cancer," said Agarwal. Free radicals have been linked to decreased sperm quality in previous studies.

However, the study does have major limitations, he acknowledged, such as the small sample size. It also was conducted in a lab and so cannot account for the protection a human body might offer, such as layers of skin, bone and tissue. Agarwal is in the early stages of further research that can model the human body's role in protecting from radio-frequency electromagnetic waves emitted from cell phones.

Agarwal also admits that there is no clear explanation of this demonstrated effect, but he shared some of his theories. "Perhaps the cell phone radiation is able to affect the gonads through a thermal effect thereby increasing the temperature of the testes and causing damaging effects in the sperm cell."

In a previous study, Agarwal and his team found that men who used their cell phones more than four hours a day had significantly lower sperm quality than those who used their cell phones for less time. Those findings were based on self-reported data from 361 subjects.

While representatives from the cell phone industry had not yet reviewed the latest study, they were careful not to give this study much merit. "The weight of the published scientific evidence, in addition to the opinion of global health organizations, shows that there is no link between wireless usage and adverse health effects," said Joe Farren, a spokesman for the CTIA-the Wireless Association.

"We support good science and always have," he said. "It's important to look at studies that are peer-reviewed and published in leading journals and to listen to the experts."

Agarwal emphasized that it is far too early for men to start changing cell phone carrying habits, noting that his own cell phone was in his pocket as he talked to CNN.

"Our study has not provided proof that you should stop putting cell phones in your pocket. There are many things that need to be proven before we get to that stage," he said.

Source : CNN



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