(David Gutierrez) Studies are increasingly showing that cellular phone use can lead to chronic health problems, including cancer and neurodegenerative disorders. Now a new study in the journal Electromagnetic Biology & Medicine has suggested a biological mechanism that might explain how these health problems develop.
The study was conducted by researchers from Indiana University, the University of Eastern Finland, the University of Campinas in Brazil, and the Institute of Experimental Pathology, Oncology and Radiobiology in Kiev, Ukraine.
The researchers found that exposure to the radiofrequency radiation (RFR) used by cell phones and other wireless devices causes a metabolic imbalance known as oxidative stress.
“These data are a clear sign of the real risks this kind of radiation poses for human health,” co-author Igor Yakymenko said.
Enormous increases in tumor risk
Health researchers roughly classify radiation into two categories: ionizing and non-ionizing. Ionizing radiation, which includes X-rays, is a variety known to cause DNA damage and cancer. Non-ionizing radiation, including RFR, is believed to be too weak to directly damage cells. Nevertheless, evidence is emerging that RFR does indeed increase the risk of cancer.
In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer officially classified RFR as a “possible carcinogen.” This came a year after the international Interphone study found that people who used a cell phone for ten years were 40 percent more likely to develop brain tumors. The risk was 400 percent higher among those who started using phones before the age of 20. Decade-long cell phone users were also more likely to develop parotid gland tumors and 300 percent more likely to develop acoustic nerve tumors.
The industry-funded Interphone study has been openly criticized for selecting data in a way that was designed to minimize the apparent risk of cell phone use.
For the new study, the researchers reviewed prior studies into cell phone risk. They found that just an hour of cell phone use per day for four years was enough to increase the risk of certain tumors between three and five times. Even 20 minutes of daily use for five years was enough to triple the risk of a certain brain tumor.
The risk may be even higher, Yakymenko warned, because some cancers can take 30 years to develop. In addition, little research has been conducted into people who start using cell phones as children.
“[Our] data were obtained on adults who used cell phones mostly up to 10 years as adults,” he said. He added that the situation could be much different for children who use cell phones because their biology is more vulnerable to hazards and they will presumably use the devices throughout their lifetime.
Cell phones cause oxidative damage
One of the major problems in gaining widespread acceptance of these risks has been the fact that RFR simply does not cause the damage seen in cells exposed to ionizing radiation. In reviewing experimental studies on the metabolic effects of low-intensity RFR, the researchers found a surprising trend: regular cell phone, tablet or wireless internet RFR consistently causes oxidative stress in living cells.
Oxidative stress is a metabolic imbalance in which the production of free radicals exceeds the body’s ability to remove them with antioxidant activity. The excess free radicals produced in this situation are able to damage cells and DNA. Free radicals have been implicated as causes of many chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and dementia, and they are also responsible for many of the effects of aging.
It is well known that the body reacts to aggressive environments with oxidative stress. Now it has been demonstrated that “ordinary wireless radiation” can have the same effect, the researchers said. This could explain not just cancer, but many of the other long-term health effects observed with long-term cell phone use.
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