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Cell phone radiofrequency could enhance head and neck cancers - New study says

on | Last revised on 18th Sep 2018

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Developments in wireless communication technology over the last twenty years resulted in increasingly widespread use of mobile phones and wireless systems for communication purposes. 

This has led to concerns regarding potential adverse health effects, particularly of the central nervous system, of which the brain is the part most exposed to the radio frequency electromagnetic fields emitted by an operating mobile phone held close to the ear.

Results from previous studies on the association between mobile phone use and the risk of tumors of the central nervous system were inconclusive, particularly regarding long term use. A large cohort study among Danish mobile phone users in 2011 found no increased risk of brain tumor among mobile phone users, providing little evidence for a causal association.

At the same time, various other studies suggested that exposure to radiofrequency fields of communication devices can damage DNA and deregulate several genes coupled with human cancer initiation and/or progression especially in specific parts of the human body, such as the head and neck.  

Mobile phone in Head and Neck cancers

Recently a group of researchers from the University of Qatar, headed by Alahmad, in collaboration with colleagues from Qebec and Aleppo, revealed for the first time, that cell phone radiofrequency can stimulate angiogenesis (formation of new blood vessels), which is an important event during cancer progression and metastasis. In addition to that, they also observed that cell-phone radiofrequency could enhance cell invasion and colony formation of human head and neck cancer cells.

In their experiment, the chorioallantoic membranes (CAM) of the fertilized chicken embryos were exposed to cell-phone radiofrequency for a total of 30 minutes per day, for 5 days using two regular iPhone 6 devices.

Researchers observed that cell phone radiofrequency increases new blood vessel formation (angiogenesis) of the CAM by approximately 25% in comparison with their unexposed control CAMs.

They also found that exposure to cell phone radiofrequency for 30 minutes per day for 3 days, slightly enhances cell proliferation, cell invasion and colony formation of the 2 human head and neck cancer cell lines, FaDu and SCC25, in comparison to their control.

Cell invasion and metastasis are hallmark features of cancer cells. E-cadherin plays a key role in cellular adhesion; loss of this function has been associated with greater tumour metastasis.

Researchers found that cell-phone radiofrequency induces a down regulation of E-cadherin expression in both cell lines (FaDu and SCC25). This down regulation of E-cadherin expression was found to be due to activation of Erk1/Erk2 signaling pathways which can enhance cancer progression via the stimulation of cell proliferation, cell invasion and angiogenesis.

Though this is the first study regarding the outcme of cellphone radiofrequency on head and neck cancer “invasion and progression”, the researchers recommend more studies on this topic to confirm the outcome of cell-phone use on human health, especially the initiation of brain as well as head tumors, because there is still some controversy regarding this important topic.

Would you like to leave your phone away after reading the results of this research?

References

  1. Alahmad YM, Aljaber M, Saleh AI, Yalcin HC, Aboulkassim T, Yasmeen A, Batist G, Moustafa AE. Effect of cell‐phone radiofrequency on angiogenesis and cell invasion in human head and neck cancer cells. Head & neck. 2018 May 13.
  2. Frei P, Poulsen AH, Johansen C, Olsen JH, Steding-Jessen M, Schüz J. Use of mobile phones and risk of brain tumours: update of Danish cohort study. Bmj. 2011 Oct 20;343:d6387.

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Meet the author

Dr Sanu P Moideen is an Indian-born oto-rhino-laryngologist (ENT) based in Cochin, Kerala, India. He is currently working as Post-Doctoral Fellow in Head and Neck Oncology at Regional Cancer Center, Trivandrum, Kerala.

He has subspecialty interests in paediatric otorhinolaryngology and received his training from Department of Pediatric ENT, Christian Medical College Hospital, Vellore, Tamilnadu, India.

He did his graduation from Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) in 2010, and pursued his masters in oto-rhino-laryngology from Sri Siddhartha Academy of Higher Education, Tumkur, Karnataka, India in 2017.

He is passionate about teaching and has an interest in education, in particular free and open access medical education (FOAMed) and e-learning. He has got around 10+ publications in various national and international peer reviewed journals.

He is the founder and Editor in Chief of e4ent.com, which he began in January 2017.

Outside work, he is proud of his role as partner of Dr. Regina M and father of Zia Mohammed, and helps in fixing his broken toys.

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