Cancer link to mobile phones – the debate continues

Cancer of the salivary gland is higher in people who use their mobile phone frequently, according to a recent study from Israel.

But in a conflicting report – the largest and longest-running investigation ever to be carried out into mobile phone usage – it was found that there is no increased risk of any sort of cancer.

In the first survey in Israel, researchers studied a sample of 500 people and found that those who had used the phone against one side of the head for several hours a day were 50% more likely to have developed a to develop a tumour of the parotid gland compared to infrequent users.

The parotid gland is the largest human salivary gland and is located near the jaw and ear, where mobile phones are typically held.

The report – published by the American Journal of Epidemiology – isn’t completely conclusive and research author Dr Siegal Sadetzki, a cancer specialist at Tel Aviv University, conceded that one study was not enough to prove a link.

Nonetheless, until more evidence became available, a ‘precautionary’ approach was best, she advised, particularly when it comes to children’s use of mobile phones.

However, despite these latest findings, this week the largest investigation ever to be carried out into mobile phone usage found to the contrary – and concluded that there is no increased risk of any sort of cancer.

This survey followed 420,000 people in Denmark, some of whom had been using a mobile phone for as long as 10 years.

There was in fact a lower incidence of cancer than expected in a group of that size, suggesting mobile phones had no impact on the development of tumours.

Commenting on the Israeli findings, Ed Yong, health information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: ‘Mobile phones are a relatively recent invention and new research into any possible health risks is welcome.

‘However, it’s important to remember that the vast majority of studies so far have found that mobile phones do not increase the risk of any type of cancer.

‘Even this study found no overall link between mobile phone use and salivary gland cancers even among heavy users.’

Last year, the UK’s Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme said that while the evidence so far was ‘reassuring’, there was still a need for studies to examine the very long-term impact, and to look at the effect in children.

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