Thursday December 13, 2018

Smartphone myths busted: It won’t give you brain cancer


New Delhi: Smartphone users can take a deep breath now. All the studies claiming that the radiation emitted from cellphones can cause brain cancer while posing to be hazardous to health have turned into a myth.

According to health experts, radiations emitted from cellphones will not give you brain cancer but, yes, excessive cell phone use can lead to other health conditions, especially among children.

Some time back, the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified mobile phone use and other radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as a possible carcinogen but with a rider that there is no research to back the claim.

The study also revealed no evidence of increasing risk with progressively increasing number of calls, longer call time, or years since beginning cellphone use.

“Mobile phones don’t cause cancer or promote the accelerated growth of existing tumors. Although there have been some concerns that radiofrequency energy from cell phones held closely to the head may affect the brain and other tissues, but to date, there is no evidence from studies of cells, animals, or humans that radiofrequency energy can cause cancer,” explained Dr Indu Bansal Aggarwal, senior consultant (oncology) at Paras Hospitals.

Radiofrequency energy emanating from cellphones is a form of electromagnetic radiation that is non-ionizing.

No study or research about cancer has proved that non-ionising radiation causes cancer. If someone speaks on a mobile phone for a long time, it generates heat.

“The only known biological effect of radiofrequency energy is heating. Radiofrequency exposure from cellphone use does cause heating; however, it is not sufficient to measurably increase body temperature,” added Dr S Hukku, director (radiation oncology) at the BLK Super Specialty Hospital in the capital.

But when it comes to the excessive use of cellphones, there are health conditions that can affect people.

According to a report by networking giant Cisco, the number of mobile users in India is projected to grow 4.4 percent to 990.2 million by 2020 – covering about 71 percent of the country’s population.

Smartphone addiction can reduce melatonin hormone levels, which may lead to neuro-degenerative diseases later in life. Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain which helps regulate other hormones and maintains the body’s circadian rhythm.

“Impaired concentration, eye problems, increased stress and chronic pain, negative effect on emotions, heart disorders, decreased sperm count and decreased hearing are some major health issues arising out of the excessive use of cell phone,” Aggarwal said.

As for children, scientists have discovered that a mere two-minutes phone call can alter the electoral activity of their brain for up to an hour.

“The disturbed brain activity could impair children’s learning ability and lead to other behavioral problems,” Aggarwal told reporters.

To avoid this, keep phone calls short, use air tube headset for calls, avoid using a cellphone in an enclosed metal space such as an elevator and do not keep the mobile phone close to the body when switched on.

“Do not place your smartphone under a pillow and avoid calls when the signal strength is low to reduce the impact of cell phone radiation on health,” Hukku suggested.

Above all, spend some time with your family where the smartphone is not an invitee! (Somrita Ghosh, IANS)

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Missouri University Sets On a Mission To Make a Better MRIs

The researchers estimate the Heart Speed technology will be available for clinical use within five years.

MRI Scans
Making MRI scanners faster has several benefits, including increased access to these devices for patients. Pixabay

MRI scans help doctors diagnose diseases or injuries without radiation. MRI technology uses powerful magnets, radio waves and a computer to make detailed pictures inside the body.

This is especially important for heart patients. With an MRI, doctors can check to see if blood vessels are blocked. They can also check for heart damage after a heart attack.

The downside is that patients must lie motionless in a long tube for a long period of time, which is especially challenging for people with claustrophobia.

University of Missouri School of Medicine researcher Dr. Talissa Altes says the procedure can be very difficult for some patients.

“It can be very hard. It can be very tiring, and they are often very long exams. We schedule them in 90 minute, an hour and a half, slots, which if you have ever been in an MR scanner, that is a long time,” Altes said.

In order to get a clear picture, patients must hold their breath, over and over.

“In general, an MRI takes a long time to acquire a single image, and if you are moving during the acquisition of that image, you will get blurring,” said Robert Thomen, another researcher on the University of Missouri School of Medicine team.

Thoman and Altes are working on a project called Heart Speed. With Heart Speed, data analysis software pulls out motion information from the magnetic resonance images. Their colleague, Steve Van Doren, says Heart Speed would allow radiologists to see the heart clearly even if a patient is breathing normally.

Brain tumours can be confused with harmless bright spots, it has never been clear whether finding these abnormalities via MRI should be a cause for concern. Wikimedia Commons

“We found that we could separate breathing motion from the heart motion quite well using the software, and we thought we should try to start applying this to real patient data,” Van Doren said.

The goal? A more comfortable scan for patients who can breathe at a normal pace. Without repeated breath holds, scans would also be much shorter — just 15 to 30 minutes.

Also Read: China Starts Investigation After Scientists Claims To Edit Genes in Babies

“Patients will benefit because it will be easier for them to do the exam,” Altes said, adding that “hopefully the radiologist who reads it or the cardiologist who reads the MRI will benefit because the images will be much better.”

The researchers estimate the Heart Speed technology will be available for clinical use within five years. (VOA)