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News / July 20, 2009

Mouth cancer linked to mobile use

by Guy Hiscott

A recent study suggests that a sharp rise in the incidence of salivary gland cancer in Israel may be linked to the use of mobile phones, reports Ha’aretz newspaper.

The research, commissioned by the Israel Dental Association, included examination of the incidence of oral cavity cancers in Israel from 1970 to 2006.

Among salivary gland cancer cases, researchers found a worrying rise in the number of cases of malignant growth in parotid glands, near the location where mobile phones are held during conversations.

By contrast, the incidence of salivary cancers in glands of the lower mouth – the so-called submandular and sublingual salivary glands – remained stable.

Of the 11,843 Israelis who developed oral cancers during the period studied, salivary gland cancer was the third most common (at 16.2%) after lip cancer and throat cancer. Most oral cancer patients were over 70, with only 2.7% under the age of 20.

However, salivary gland cancer, which researchers suspect to be linked to mobile phone use, was disproportionately common among young patients. Twenty per cent of those patients were under the age of 20.

From 1980-2002 the number of cases of parotid salivary cancer held steady at around 25 per year. The number of cases rose dramatically in the following five years, to 70 cases per year.

Lead researcher, Dr Avi Zvini of the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Dental Medicine, said: ‘We haven’t gathered data on the use of cell phones on the part of the patients but the rise [in cancer cases] absolutely could indicate increased exposure to cellular telephones and damage caused by radiation.’

The researchers intend to collect data on their oral cancer patients’ mobile phone use during the next stage of the study to examine the possible statistical link between the two.

Oral cancers are associated with a high mortality rate in Israel, with patients living an average of five-and-a-half years.