The latest data from the Pew Research Center estimates that 96 percent of American adults own a cell phone. Given the sheer number of people using cell phones, scientists have been keen to establish a link between cell phone use and chronic diseases like cancer. Recent research suggests that the brain is the most susceptible organ when it comes to exposure to radiation from cell phones.
Cell phones increase risk of developing brain tumors
Current research singled out two types of brain tumor — the malignant gliomas and the benign acoustic neuromas — that arise due to exposure to cell phone radiation.
Gliomas are one of the most common types of brain tumors. They occur in the glial cells, which are located around nerve cells, providing support and insulation between them. Like most types of brain tumors, the etiology of gliomas is unknown. People considered at risk include older adults between 45 and 65 years old as well as those who’re exposed to radiation. (Related: New report: Wireless technology causes brain damage.)
An article published in the journal Surgical Neurology reviewed previous peer-reviewed studies on the relationship between cell phone usage and the risk of developing a brain tumor. The researchers found that regular cell phone use for 10 or more years doubled the risk of being diagnosed with glioma and acoustic neuroma on the side of the head preferred for cell phone use.
This review is backed up by the 2017 supplement to the BioInitiative Report which also reported a consistent finding of increased risk of both associated with cell phone use.
These adverse effects arise because cell phones emit non-ionizing radiation, which the human body absorbs. A study from the National Institutes of Health’s National Toxicology Program has shown that high enough amounts of radiation from cell phones caused tumors in tissues surrounding the nerve cells of male rats.
“Without question, cell phones emit radiation,” says Jennifer Simmons, a board-certified breast surgeon and the chief of breast surgery at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery in Philadelphia. “Even low-level radiation builds over time. There is conclusive evidence that radiation is associated with an increased risk of cancers.”
How to minimize exposure to harmful radiation
It’s fairly challenging for people to escape the harmful effects of radiation, especially when it’s coming from their cell phones. These days, people rely on their phones for just about anything from updates at work to meeting people online.
Despite these challenges, experts still suggest minimizing exposure whenever possible.
“It’s non-ionizing radiation that you expose your body tissue to. If you can use a headphone device, so the device is not right next to your brain, why not use that? We call that a precautionary principle,” says Kirsten Moyisch, a professor of oncology at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York.
Aside from using headphone devices, there are other ways to lower radiation exposure. First, you can place your phone away from you when you sleep. If you’re out and need to keep your phone secure, avoid putting it in your pocket; put it in your bag instead. If your call is taking too long, try to put it on loudspeaker to minimize your exposure to radiation.
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