Research shows mobile phones raise children's risk of brain cancer by five times

New research from Sweden is certain to alarm many as it has found that young people today are five times more likely to get brain cancer if they are mobile phones users.

The researchers say over the last few decades, there has been rapid worldwide development of wireless technology, including increasing use of wireless telephone communication.

This has raised concerns about health risks, primarily increased risk for brain tumours, owing to the proximity of the brain to the radiation antenna, with the potential for absorbing a comparatively large amount of electromagnetic energy.

The research on the effects of this radiation provides a glimpse into problems today's youngsters may have to face later in life.

The alarming research will inevitably raise fear that the epidemic in mobile phone use will lead to another kind of epidemic later on as figures indicate that 9 out of ten 16-year-olds have their own handset, as well as many primary schoolchildren.

Children are especially vulnerable to radiation from mobile and cordless phones, Wi-Fi and other devices, because their brains and nervous systems are still developing and since their heads are smaller and their skulls are thinner - the radiation penetrates deeper into their brains.

The Swedish research presented this month at the first international conference on mobile phones and health and represents an analysis of data from one of the biggest studies carried out into the risk that the radiation causes cancer, and was led by Professor Lennart Hardell of the University Hospital in Orebro, Sweden.

The researchers scrutinised the data from 18 studies from the USA, Denmark, Finland, Sweden (5), the UK, Germany and Japan.

Dr. Lennart Hardell is professor in oncology and cancer epidemiology at the University Hospital in Orebro, Sweden and while most of his research has been on risk factors for cancer such as exposure to pesticides and persistent organic pollutants, in recent years he and his colleagues have studied the use of cellular and cordless telephones and the risk for brain tumours.

Professor Hardell says that people who started mobile phone use before the age of 20 have more than a five-fold increase in glioma, a cancer of the glial cells that support the central nervous system - he says 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.

Professor Hardell says those who start using mobiles young, were also five times more likely to get acoustic neuromas, which are benign but often disabling tumours of the auditory nerve, which usually cause deafness, whereas people who were in their twenties before using handsets were only 50% more likely to contract gliomas and just twice as likely to get acoustic neuromas.

Professor Hardell says the figures are a warning sign which is very worrying and precautions should be taken.

Professor Hardell 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' - he says by age 20 the danger diminishes because the brain is then fully developed.

He suspects the hazard to children and teenagers may be even 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 and he says most cancers take decades to develop, longer than mobile phones have been on the market.

The research also showed 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.

Professor Hardell says more research needs to be done on the risks to children because to see a five-fold increase in cancer among people who started use in childhood is frightening.

Other experts agree and say children are spending significant time on mobile phones which could as a result lead to a public health crisis in an epidemic of brain cancers - many were in fact recommending that the use of mobile phones by children be "discouraged" and "minimised" back in 2000.

The European Parliament recently voted by 522 to 16 for stricter limits for exposure to radiation from mobile and other devices.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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