Over like 20 hours a day. I am on it all the time. When my battery dies I feel like I am stranded on an island. I do feel lost without my cell phone!” are some common responses. According to a Swedish study, people who use a cell phone for at least 10 years might increase their risk of developing a rare benign tumor along a nerve on the side of the head where they hold the phone.
"For many years people have been questioning the fact that cell phones may increase the incidence of brain tumors and one of the reasons is because unfortunately to date, we do not really have any good data supporting the reasons why people come down with a brain tumor", says neurosurgeon, Dr. Isabelle Germano, Mount Sinai Medical School, New York.
The study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, questioned 150 patients already diagnosed with acoustic neuroma, a benign tumor on the auditory nerve that takes several years to grow, before being diagnosed, and 600 who did not have it, about their cell phone use. All 750 subjects had been using cell phones for at least 10 years, nearly all early analog models that emit more electromagnetic radiation than the digital models now on the market.
According to the researchers, the risk of developing a tumor was almost double for those who started to use cell phones before their diagnosis. In addition, the tumor risk was almost four times higher on the side of the head where the phone was held. "One of the problems of the acoustic tumor is that you will gradually lose hearing on the side that is affected", says Dr. Germano. But she cautions that more studies are needed.
"One way to construct a study would be to take 100 patients, or 1,000 patients or 10,000 patients that are using cells phones and the same number of patients that are matched geographically, the same age who do not use cell phones and see if there is a population that shows more incidence of brain tumors", says Dr. Germano.
The Wireless Association, a trade group representing American cell phone manufacturers, also urges more research be done. According to the researchers, at the time the study was conducted, only analog mobile phones had been in use for more than 10 years and therefore they couldn’t determine if the results are confined to use of analog phones or if the results would be similar after long-term use of digital phones.