In a world where the cell phone is an indispensible business tool, many individuals don’t think twice about having these devices attached to the sides of their heads for several hours a day while working. They dismiss the news articles and sometimes manufactured hysteria surrounding the debate about whether cell phone radiation causes brain cancer or other health problems. But mobile phone users may want to pay attention to the results of a preliminary study, the results of which were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association
In the study, researchers found that 50 consecutive minutes of cell-phone use was associated with increased brain glucose metabolism—a marker of brain activity—in the region of the brain closest to the phone’s antenna.
The researchers, led by Nora Volkow, M.D., of the National Institutes of Health, embarked on the study to evaluate whether acute cell-phone exposure affects brain glucose metabolism due to the concern about possible negative effects of RF signals delivered to the brain. Previous studies are inconsistent on this point.
Forty-seven healthy participants were included in the study. Cell phones were placed on both the left and right ears of each participant, and PET scans were taken to measure brain glucose metabolism. It was measured twice: once with one phone in the “on” state (right cell phone activated, sound muted), and once with both phones in the “off” state (both phones deactivated). The PET scans were then compared to assess the effect of the cell-phone use on brain glucose metabolism.
The whole-brain metabolism did not differ between the on and off conditions. However, there were significant regional effects. Metabolism in the region closest to the phone antenna was significantly higher—approximately 7%—for the “cell phone on” state versus the “cell phone off” state. These results show that the human brain is sensitive to the effects of RF signals from acute cell phone exposure.
The authors note that their findings are of unknown clinical significance and that more research needs to be done to assess if these effects could have potential long-term harmful consequences.
So the question of whether cell-phone radiation causes cancer is still up in the air, but as this study shows, it certainly has some measurable effect on the brain.