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Heavy Cell Phone Use Could Lead to Cancer, Saliva Study

Update Date: Jul 29, 2013 02:59 PM EDT

Experts have long warned people about the potential harmful effects of regular cell phone use, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has categorized mobile devices as carcinogenic category 2b, meaning that they are potentially carcinogenic to humans.

While previous studies have failed to produce definitive results, new research on saliva reveals that heavy cell phone users show increased risk factors for cancer.

Lead researcher Dr. Yaniv Hamzany, of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery Department at the Rabin Medical Center, wanted to look at the relationship between cancer rates and cell phone use. Because cell phones are placed close to the salivary gland when in use, researchers hypothesized that salivary content could indicate whether there was a link between cell phone use and cancer.

After comparing heavy mobile phone users to non-users, researchers found that the saliva of heavy users showed indications of higher oxidative stress, a process that damages the human cell through the development of toxic peroxide and free radicals.

The study, published in the journal Antioxidants and Redox Signaling, involved 20 heavy-user patients. Heavy users were defined as speaking on the phone for a minimum of eight hours a month. However, many participants speak significantly more, with some people speaking as much as 30 to 40 ours a month.

Researchers compared the saliva content of heavy users to samples from a control group, which consisted of deaf patients who either do not use a cell phone, or use the device exclusively for sending text message and other non-verbal functions.

Hamzany and his team found that heavy cell phones user had significantly higher salivary oxidative stress in all measurements studied.

"This suggests that there is considerable oxidative stress on the tissue and glands which are close to the cell phone when in use," he explained.

Researchers said that the damage caused by oxidative stress could increase cellular and genetic mutations that can trigger the development of tumors.

Scientists have long been worried about the impact of cell phone use, particularly the effects of radiofrequency non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation on human tissue located close to the ear. While the latest findings do not reveal a conclusive causal relationship between cell phone use and cancer, they do add evidence that cell phone use may be harmful in the long term.

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