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Israeli study links mobile phone users saliva with cancer risk


Fertility ResearchA study that compared the saliva content of 20 mobile phone users with 20 deaf people has resulted in media headlines that claim just 17 minutes of phone calls a day dramatically increases your risk of cancer. However, the research found no direct relationship between mobile phone use and cancer and using deaf people as a control group may have affected the results.

 
A study that compared the saliva content of 20 mobile phone users with 20 deaf people has led to media headlines suggesting just 17 minutes of phone calls a day dramatically increases your risk of cancer. However, the research found no direct relationship between mobile phone use and cancer and suffered limitations in study design.
 
The study by researchers from Tel Aviv University in Israel hypothesised that saliva content could reveal whether there was a connection to developing cancer because a mobile phone is placed close to the saliva gland when in use.
 
The researchers analysed the saliva content of 20 ‘heavy’ phone users, who spoke on their phones for at least eight hours a month for the last eight years. They then compared the participants’ saliva with 20 deaf participants who either did not use a mobile phone at all or only used them for other functions like sending text messages or the internet.
 
“In many countries, including ours, the use of mobile phones is so widespread that, for the current study, we had to use deaf individuals as controls for the mobile phone users, as we could not find enough hearing people who do not use mobile phones,” the researchers explained.
 
The results of the study published in Antioxidants and Redox Signaling showed the heavy mobile phone users had significantly greater saliva oxidative stress.
 
“Our study indicates that mobile phone users experience considerable oxidative stress on proximal tissue as shown in the saliva, which mostly originates from the parotid glands,” the researchers concluded. “Oxidative stress is a potential contributor for the risk for developing cancer.”
 
However, the researchers said their study suffered from limitations, such as the effect of the use of deaf participants as a control group.
 
“The major limitation to this study is that, under its current design, one cannot exclude the possibility that deafness itself, and not the lack of being exposed to NIER [mobile phone emissions], is responsible for the observed reduced oxidative stress in the non-mobile group, though this seems unlikely,” the researchers said.
 
The study has to also be considered in light of the large body of existing scientific evidence that has found no link between mobile phones signals and cancer.
 
In response to the study results, Henry Scowcroft, the science information manager at Cancer Research UK, told the UK’s Daily Express: “Brain tumour rates have been more or less unchanged for decades, and this, coupled with the results of large studies, suggests that mobile phones do not increase the risk of developing them.
 
“This is a very small study looking at chemical differences in the saliva between just 20 mobile phone users and a similar group of non-users, almost all of whom had hereditary deafness. It did not measure cancer rates.
 

“So it is impossible to draw firm conclusions from this study – and when set against the overwhelming body of evidence from larger studies, does not alter the conclusion that mobile phones are unlikely to increase the risk of brain tumours or other cancers.”

Published 6 November 2013

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