Do Cell Phones Cause Salivary Gland Tumors?

Do Cell Phones Cause Salivary Gland Tumors?
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What effect does mobile phone radiation have on your parotid gland?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

A summary of studies found no acute effects of cell phone radiation, like nausea/headaches/dizziness/fatigue, but they were just looking at the short-term effects; not considering any of the data on the potential long-term effects. No acute effects, so “future research efforts should concentrate on possible [chronic] effects. I’ve explored the studies on brain tumors and on the effects of the auditory nerve in our ear, but that’s not all there is on the side of your head. There’s your brain, your ear, and your parotid gland: the big salivary gland right next to your ear. About one in a thousand people develop salivary gland cancer in their lifetime, so the question is: “Does cell phone use increase the chances of parotid gland tumor development?”

Well, if you have 100 people drool into a test tube, the saliva of those who use a cell phone more than an hour a day does appear to have significantly less antioxidant capacity than those who talk less. So, “[c]onsidering the major protective role of antioxidant[s]” to protect against free-radical-induced DNA damage that can lead to cancer, this could be a potential route by which cell phone increases salivary tumor risk. But this was just an observational study. Maybe those who are on their phones all day tend to eat worse diets than those who talk less?

This study is a little more convincing. They found that saliva taken from the salivary gland on the side of the head they were using the phone on had higher levels of inflammatory markers compared to saliva taken from the same person—but just from the non-phone side of their head.

Now this increase in inflammation isn’t necessarily from the cell phone radiation, but may just be from the heat generated by the phone. Just pressing anything warm against your face for an hour a day may not be good for your glands.

Does the increased oxidation and inflammation actually translate out into “cytogenetic abnormalities,” meaning cell and chromosomal abnormalities in your mouth? Those who use cell phones a lot do appear to have “an increased number of broken eggs” in their tongues. What? That’s a rather playful description of a cytogenetic abnormality associated with cancer. Okay, but what we really care about is cancer cancer. “Does cell phone use increase the chances of parotid gland tumor development?” “This is the first systematic review” ever published to evaluate that, and…cell phone use does indeed appear to be associated with increased risk.

This is a good time to explore absolute versus relative risk. If you were asked whether you’d be willing to take a daily pill to reduce your chances of dying from a heart attack by 50%, you might jump at it. But, if you’re so young and healthy that your risk of that is only like two in a thousand over the next 10 or 20 years, then taking those 5,000 or so pills may not be worth it for you. 50% sounds great, but if you’re talking a really rare event, then it’s less exciting. So, even if cell phones did increase risk 28%, then a lifetime of cell phone use would only increase your risk of getting such a tumor from a one in 1,400 chance to about a one in 1,100 chance.

If you want to reduce your risk, though, both the heat and cell phone emissions are largely a local phenomenon, so you can use of a speakerphone or headset to reduce exposure. Or you can do more texting. Basically, until we know more, “the adoption of such precautions” is not unreasonable, “particularly among young people”—something that concerns some researchers enough to recommend young children consider minimizing their use altogether.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: rawpixel via Unsplash. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

A summary of studies found no acute effects of cell phone radiation, like nausea/headaches/dizziness/fatigue, but they were just looking at the short-term effects; not considering any of the data on the potential long-term effects. No acute effects, so “future research efforts should concentrate on possible [chronic] effects. I’ve explored the studies on brain tumors and on the effects of the auditory nerve in our ear, but that’s not all there is on the side of your head. There’s your brain, your ear, and your parotid gland: the big salivary gland right next to your ear. About one in a thousand people develop salivary gland cancer in their lifetime, so the question is: “Does cell phone use increase the chances of parotid gland tumor development?”

Well, if you have 100 people drool into a test tube, the saliva of those who use a cell phone more than an hour a day does appear to have significantly less antioxidant capacity than those who talk less. So, “[c]onsidering the major protective role of antioxidant[s]” to protect against free-radical-induced DNA damage that can lead to cancer, this could be a potential route by which cell phone increases salivary tumor risk. But this was just an observational study. Maybe those who are on their phones all day tend to eat worse diets than those who talk less?

This study is a little more convincing. They found that saliva taken from the salivary gland on the side of the head they were using the phone on had higher levels of inflammatory markers compared to saliva taken from the same person—but just from the non-phone side of their head.

Now this increase in inflammation isn’t necessarily from the cell phone radiation, but may just be from the heat generated by the phone. Just pressing anything warm against your face for an hour a day may not be good for your glands.

Does the increased oxidation and inflammation actually translate out into “cytogenetic abnormalities,” meaning cell and chromosomal abnormalities in your mouth? Those who use cell phones a lot do appear to have “an increased number of broken eggs” in their tongues. What? That’s a rather playful description of a cytogenetic abnormality associated with cancer. Okay, but what we really care about is cancer cancer. “Does cell phone use increase the chances of parotid gland tumor development?” “This is the first systematic review” ever published to evaluate that, and…cell phone use does indeed appear to be associated with increased risk.

This is a good time to explore absolute versus relative risk. If you were asked whether you’d be willing to take a daily pill to reduce your chances of dying from a heart attack by 50%, you might jump at it. But, if you’re so young and healthy that your risk of that is only like two in a thousand over the next 10 or 20 years, then taking those 5,000 or so pills may not be worth it for you. 50% sounds great, but if you’re talking a really rare event, then it’s less exciting. So, even if cell phones did increase risk 28%, then a lifetime of cell phone use would only increase your risk of getting such a tumor from a one in 1,400 chance to about a one in 1,100 chance.

If you want to reduce your risk, though, both the heat and cell phone emissions are largely a local phenomenon, so you can use of a speakerphone or headset to reduce exposure. Or you can do more texting. Basically, until we know more, “the adoption of such precautions” is not unreasonable, “particularly among young people”—something that concerns some researchers enough to recommend young children consider minimizing their use altogether.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: rawpixel via Unsplash. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video.

Doctor's Note

The previous videos I mentioned are: Does Cell Phone Radiation Cause Cancer? and The Effects of Cell Phones & Bluetooth on Nerve Function.

I also have videos about effects on cognitive function and a constellation of different symptoms in Do Mobile Phones Affect Brain Function? and Is Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Real?

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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