Cell Phone Use And Brain Cancer


In what may be described as a failure, even the largest all-inclusive research conducted on the potential relation between use of cell phones and brain cancer thus far has failed to arrive at any firm conclusion. The decade-long research titled 'Interphone' is scheduled to be made public shortly in the International Journal of Epidemiology, was actually issued on last Sunday night.

The wide-ranging research tracked 10,000 people, which included people who used cell phones, non-users, patients who have survived brain cancer and survivors who never ever used cell phones.

It is interesting to note that during the course of their study, researchers detected that the majority of cell phone use was not responsible for the augmentation of glioma and meningioma - the two major as well as fatal forms of brain cancer. However, the findings of the research hinted that excessive use of cell phones is likely to increase the hazards of acquiring brain tumours. The research also revealed that people who conversed over the cell phone for an average of half an hour daily for more than 10 years were faced with an increased risk of developing glioma.

Notwithstanding these findings, at the end of the study, the researchers determined that the data collected by them was not sufficient to establish any relation between the cell phones and brain cancer. The scientists said that they were still uncertain regarding the reasons that lead to the inconsistency, but, at the same time, believed that the defective procedure or approach was liable for it. This was opined by Dr. Jack Siemiatycki, an epidemiologist serving at the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal Research Centre, who was also among the scientists who participated in the study 'Interphone'.

The study found that people who used their cell phones too often were faced with about a 40 per cent greater risk of developing glioma in comparison to people who had never used a cell phone in their lifetime. In addition, the frequent cell phone users also faced two times more risk of developing tumours on the side of their head where they usually held their cell phone while chatting.

A statement issued by Dr Siemiatycki prior to making the findings of the research public said that limited accessibility to the subjects participating in the study actually decreased the soundness of the findings of the research. He was of the opinion that the findings of the research were vague, unexpected as well as perplexing.

According to Dr. Siemiatycki, another reason that hints why the sample was not sufficiently demonstrative is the fact that just around 50 to 60 per cent of appropriate subjects took part in the research. Consequently, it is likely that they have presented an erroneous representation of usage of cell phone among the patients enduring cancer and the people who were healthy. Moreover, Dr. Siemiatycki emphasized that stringent restrictions enforced by the ethics panels compelled the researchers to enlist subjects through the physicians and this could have also distorted the findings of the research.

The scientists emphasized that any hazards of acquiring cancer by means of using cell phones would be negligible and advised the apprehensive cell phone consumers to use hands-free headsets with a view to avoid the risks of developing tumours in the head or brain cancer.

Before concluding the discussion, it may be mentioned that the research was organized by an inter-governmental body that formed a part of the World Health Organization (WHO) of the United Nations - the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The study was conducted by scientists located in 13 different countries, which included Canada, Japan, France and the United Kingdom. The Canadian part of the study was organized in Quebec and was funded by the government-aided Canadian Institutes of Health Research. In fact, over a fourth of the total funding of the research that was to the tune of ?19.2 million came from different industry sources.

What is meningioma?

Our brain is encircled and protected by membranes known as meninges. Sometimes, the cells comprising the meninges start replicating unusually resulting in the development of a type of tumor called meningioma. While such tumors may turn out to be cancerous, in most cases they are benign - denoting that they do not extend to different areas within the brain.

However, the precise cause for the development of such tumors in the brain is yet to be ascertained. In fact, such tumors may happen to people of all age groups and it is somewhat more frequent in women. Individuals who have undergone radiation therapy earlier are more likely to develop this type of brain tumor or meningioma.

It may be noted that all people with meningioma do not experience the symptoms related to this condition, particularly when the tumor is small in size. Even when the symptoms occur, they are likely to vary subject to the place as well as the size of meningioma. The most common symptoms of this condition may include headaches, hearing problems and vision changes. Some people enduring meningioma may, however, experience additional symptoms like memory loss and probably also seizures. Initially, the symptoms are likely to be gentle, but their severity as well as frequency may increase as the tumors become larger.

If your physician suspects that you may have developed meningioma, he/ she may ask you to undergo some tests with a view to diagnose the condition. Generally, the patient is asked to undergo a CT (computerized tomography) scan to find out whether he/ she has developed meningioma and, if they have, then determine its precise location. However, a number of physicians may also recommend their patient to undergo a MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan. Precisely speaking, a MRI scan is a further sensitive examination and is able to detect even minute alterations in the tumor size.

Despite the fact that a meningioma is benign, it is essential to treat the condition. In this case, the mode of treatment will actually depend on the location and size of the tumour as well as its pace of growth. However, if the symptoms of meningioma do not appear in a person, he/ she will not require any treatment. Nevertheless, they will have to undergo regular CT scans with a view to monitor the growth of the tumour.

When treatment is necessary, the patient may also opt for undergoing a surgery. A number of risks may possibly be associated with a meningioma surgery or the operation to remove the tumour and these may include infection as well as damage to some brain areas. Moreover, it may often not be possible to remove the entire meningioma during a surgery. While this type of tumour has its origin in the membranes, it may develop near the brain and, therefore, may be risky to try to remove it completely.

Apart from surgery, people suffering from meningioma may also consider undergoing radiation therapy to treat their condition. Generally, radiation therapy is recommended when it was not possible to remove the tumour completely through surgery. This treatment mode involves directing an external radiation beam to the tumour with a view to eliminate it completely. Usually, the patient is asked to undergo radiation therapy for several weeks together. While each individual reacts in a different way to radiation therapy, this treatment mode may result in side effects, such as headaches, tiredness and nausea.

Recuperation from meningioma as well as the treatment involved to cure the condition may be subject to the patient's general health, the age of the patient and the tumour size. However several people never recover from this condition completely, as the tumour may reappear even after the treatment. Therefore, it is advisable that people who have had meningioma once should undergo CT scans on a regular basis with a view to detect the recurrence of the tumour at a very early stage.

What is glioma?

Similar to meningioma, glioma is also a tumour, but in this case there is an anomalous growth of the glial cells present in the brain and/ or the spinal cord. Glial cells play a vital role in safeguarding as well as supporting the neurons present in our brain. When these cells become abnormal or start growing irregularly, they may develop into tumours known as gliomas. While gliomas generally develop inside the brain, they may have an adverse effect on the spinal cord.

In fact, gliomas are considered to be the brain's primary tumours, denoting that such anomalous growth has its origin in the brain itself. According to the records maintained by the American Brain Tumour Association, approximately in every 1,000 persons, as many as 12.8 people develop this type of tumour. Often, gliomas are diagnosed between two different age groups - the three to twelve year age group and the 40 to 70 year age group.

Gliomas are classified into three basic groups. The first classification depends on the type of cell that is affected. When the ependymal cells have an abnormal growth, the glioma is known as ependymoma. On the other hand, when the astrocyte cells are affected, the glioma is known as astrocytomas. Then again, when oligodendrocyte cells have an anomalous growth, the glioma is known as oligodendroglioma. In addition, when dissimilar forms of glial cells are affected, it is called oligoastrocytomas.

Secondly, gliomas are classified depending on the grade of the tumour. While gliomas of low-grade denote well-distinguished gliomas having improved prognosis (diagnosis), high-grade gliomas are basically malignant and anaplastic in nature. The third and last classification is made depending on the area affected by the glioma or the tumour's location. It may be noted that supratentorial gliomas develop just above the tentorium, infratentorial gliomas arise just beneath the tentorium. On the other hand, gliomas called pontine are those that involve the pons that form an element of the brainstem.

Usually, people suffering from gliomas experience headaches, nausea, seizures as well as pain and numbness in some body areas. In addition, the cranial nerves of the patient are also damaged to some extent. In fact, sometimes the anomalous tumour cells may possibly extend to the spinal cord through the cerebrospinal fluid. As mentioned earlier, scientists are yet to ascertain the precise reason for the occurrence of such tumours in the brain. However, when it has been detected that a patient is suffering from glioma, they are advised to work together with their physicians at once with a view to avail enhanced treatment preferences.


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