This month, a study published in the Journal of Public Health and Environment, raised new fears about cancer’s connection to cellphones, reported The Telegraph (UK). The research team investigated the rise of an often fatal type of brain tumour called Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM). A total of 79, 241 malignant brain tumours over 21 years were analysed. They found that GBM cases in England went from around 1,250 a year in 1995 to just under 3,000.
According to The Telegraph, scientists at the Physicians’ Health Initiative for Radiation and Environment (PHIRE) said the increasing rate of tumours in the frontal temporal lobe “raises the suspicion that mobile and cordless phone use may be promoting gliomas”. Cell phone radiation exposure has been principally linked to two types of brain tumours − gliomas and acoustic neuromas.
So, are our beloved palm-sized gadgets safe to use? Can the radiation emitted by cellphones really give you cancer?
Dr Avinash Deo, Medical Oncologist, Fortis SL Raheja Hospital, Mumbai, points out that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has identified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic (having the potential to cause cancer).
Earlier this year, a survey conducted in India revealed that 65% of its participants considered smartphones to be their best friend. Yes, let that sink in. Most people would rather communicate with an electronic device than a living, breathing human being. That’s how much we’ve grown to be dependent on technology, and especially on our smartphones.
Apart from cancer and brain tumour, there are concerns in the medical community that excess smartphone usage can lead to early deafness, memory loss and even interfere with the nervous system.
“Cellphones emit low levels of radio magnetic waves. The kind of radio magnetic waves your cellphone emits also plays a part. A number of studies have been conducted to examine whether the radiation leads to brain tumours, or increases risks of cancer. So far, there has been no conclusive evidence,” says Dr Sanjay Dudhat, senior consultant and surgical oncologist, Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital, Mumbai.
Dr Deo says that one of the issues with extensive studies is that because they take place over a period of 10 or 20 years, the technology studied becomes outdated. “Cellphone companies then say that they no longer make use of that particular technology. Moreover, it relies on the participant’s ability to recall their usage estimate. This may not always be accurate.”
To err on the side of caution, limit your cellphone usage to the bare minimum. As much as possible, rely instead on good old landlines, or even speaker mode or headphones for that matter. And if you have children, ensure they are kept away from it. Their brains are smaller and still developing.
“Even though we don’t have a clear indication of cancer risk, it’s a scientific fact that cellphones emit radiation in a 3-4 ft radius,” says Dr Dudhat. For that reason alone, it’s wise not to sleep with your cellphone next to your head on the bed. Best to keep it on a table away from the bed.
Apart from deadly diseases like cancers, there are other problems that heavy gadget usage can cause. Since we’re constantly typing these days, we could damage the tendons of our fingers and end up with tendonitis.
And if you think reading on the mobile doesn’t count as a bad thing, you’re mistaken. The LED light it emits is not doing your eyes any favours.
Moreover, being glued to your favourite device gives way to a sedentary lifestyle. And that, in turn, leads to conditions like obesity and diabetes.