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20.06.2019 Article

Smart Phone use: How exposed are Ghanaians to cancer?

By Alex Ababio

There is no doubt the vast majority of Ghanaians are smartphone users, as it has been confirmed by a recent report by Africa’s leading e-commerce company Jumia, which revealed that Ghana is one of Africa’s largest mobile phone markets, with about 34.57 million subscribers and a penetration rate of 119%.

The report additionally shows that there are 10.11 million active internet users in Ghana. This means that nearly one third ( ⅓ ) of the country’s population have access to internet.

From the survey, one can say that majority of Ghanaians are preoccupied with cell phones which have undeniably become their best companion − it’s more or less like an attachment to their lives.

They spend more hours in a day with their mobile phones than anything in their lives, not even their kids have such equal accessible hours with them:They eat with it, bath with it, work with it and sleep with; yet they seem not to care a hoot about the associated health hazards with this darling and addictive gadget.

A recent study by phone manufacturing company, Motorola revealed that people were so glued to their cell phones that in the event of a fire outbreak, majority of cell phone users would abandon their cats rather than abandon their smartphones!

However, the fact is mobile phone usage has become so convenient as it offers so much to its users. Besides using it for calling and texting, the user can surf the Internet with it, use it as an individual planner, game consolation, and take pictures and video with a very dynamic quality.

Despite its numerous benefits, smartphones have hidden health risks associated with its use. This can be said of a proverbial fire which is a good servant and at the same time a bad master.

Now, if majority of Ghanaians are glued to their smartphones the tendency that they will be affected by its side effects cannot be understated.

More so, as majority of smartphone users in Ghana do not have adequate knowledge about its health risk, let alone knowing how to prevent themselves from being infected with disease like cancer which has been cited by scientist as a major health risk to the use of mobile phones.

Now the question, is your cell phone a blessing, or is it truly a curse? And more importantly… can cell phones cause cancer?

I one time witnessed an experiment conducted with four mobile phones placed around some few grains of uncooked maize, switched on and dialed at the same time, within a space of one to three minutes , the maize were completely cooked with some marked of burnt and popped yellowish skin .

This is an evidence that cell phones emit some harmful radiations.

Cell phones emit a form of electromagnetic field called radio frequency (RF) radiation. However, some Mobile phone telecommunication companies, particularly in Ghana have strongly argued that this radiation is harmless because of the low power levels involved and because it’s non-ionizing.

Mobile phones are also known to emit radiofrequency energy, a form of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation, which can be absorbed by tissues close to the phone. The amount of radiofrequency energy a mobile phone user is exposed to depends on many factors such as the technology of the phone (The make- up or the configuration of the phone), the distance between the phone and the user, the frequency of usage and the user’s distance from cell phone towers.

In 2011, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified mobile phone radiation possibly carcinogenic, this indicates that there “could be some risk” of carcinogenicity. To establish the fact about its authenticity, there is the need to conduct further research into the long-term, heavy use of mobile phones.

There is a widely held-view regarding an increased risk of brain tumours from the use of mobile phones, but this has not been scientifically proven, so mobile phone use extended to periods longer than 15 years really calls for further research into mobile phone use and brain cancer risk.

A cohort study in Denmark linked billing information from more than 358,000 cell phone subscribers with brain tumour incidence data from the Danish Cancer Registry, analysis found no association between cell phone use and the incidence of glioma, meningioma, or acoustic neuroma, even among people who had been cell phone subscribers for 13 or more years.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) states that the IARC classification means that there could be some risk associated with cancer, but the proof is not strong enough to be considered causal and needs to be investigated further.

Scientists have reported adverse health effects of using mobile phones including changes in brain activity, reaction times, and sleep patterns. More studies are underway to try to confirm these findings. When mobile phones are used very close to some medical devices (including pacemakers, implantable defibrillators, and certain hearing aids) there is the possibility of causing interference with their operation. There is also the potential of interference between mobile phones signals and aircraft electronics. Some countries have licensed mobile phone use on aircraft during flight using systems that control the phone output power.

Scientists have argued that Children are likely to be at greater risk than adults for developing brain cancer from cell phones. According to them children’s nervous systems are at developing stage, making them susceptible to factors that may cause cancer.

Unfortunately, this cell phone radiation has the ability to penetrate our bodies and cause untold damage.

In 2011, the World Health Organization, WHO, classified cell phone radiation as a possible 2B carcinogen. Reliably, the WHO did only classify cell phone radiation as a possible carcinogen, but not a plausible carcinogen.

However, a growing number of connoisseurs believe this classification does not sufficiently protect the public. Nevertheless, there are the thousands of peer-reviewed studies which support the claim that cellphones cause cancer.

Can Cell Phones Cause Breast Cancer and Other Cancers?

There have been multiple studies into whether or not cell phones cause cancer. In addition to brain cancer, these studies link cell phone radiation exposure to many other types of cancer, including: Cancer of the Pituitary Gland,Thyroid Cancer, Melanoma Risk, Stem Cell Cancer,Parotid Malignant Tumors,Leukemi, Lymph Node Cancer, Multifocal Breast Cancer, Eye Cancer

1. Cell phone use during pregnancy may cause behavioural problems

2. Cell phone users have an increased risk of malignant gliomas

3. Cell phone use was linked to a higher rate of acoustic neuromas

4. Tumors are more likely to occur on the side of the head that the cell handset is used. One hour of cell phone use per day significantly increases tumor risk after ten years or more.

5. Increases Stress Levels. The high frequency of cell phone use can have negative effects on our stress levels. The constant ringing, vibrating alerts, and reminders can put a cell phone user on edge.

6. Sleep disturbances and symptoms of depression
7. Responding to messages at rapid speed can cause pain and inflammation of your joints.

8. Back pain is also common with increased cell phone use, especially if you hold the phone between your neck and shoulders as you multitask.

9. Long periods of cell phone use cause you to arch your neck and hold your body in a strange posture.

10. Increases Risk of Eye Vision Problems staring at your mobile device can cause problems in your vision later in life. Screens on mobile devices tend to be smaller than computer screens, which means you are more likely to squint and strain your eyes while reading messages.

Cell Phone Radiation Protection Tips and precautionary measures

1. Limit cell phone calls to those that are absolutely necessary

2. Avoid making or receiving calls in places with bad reception

3. Put your phone on airplane mode when you are not using its wireless functions

4. Avoid carrying your cell phone in your pocket or anywhere on your body when it’s switched on

5. Use earphones, preferably an airtube headset, so you won’t have to put your cell phone close to your head (Note: Do NOT use a Bluetooth headset which also emits radiation)

6. Do not take your cell phone into your bedroom at night. If you must, keep it in airplane mode and as far from your head as possible.

7. Choose to text instead of calling whenever possible and if a long conversation is in place, opt to meet the person directly or call on a land line.

8. Use hands-free to decrease the radiation to the head.

9. Keep the mobile phone away from the body.
10. Do not use telephone in a car without an external antenna.

(Alex Ababio is the Executive Director of African Liberators Economic Institute)

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."