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Human spit may be transparent, but it contains a host of information that can tell someone’s risk of developing cancer, according to a new study from Tel Aviv University.

In an effort to find a link between cell phone usage and cancer risk, researchers found clues in the saliva of cell phone users. Since mobile phones are typically placed on the side of the face, they are close to the salivary gland.

By studying the saliva of heavy cell phone users, scientists found higher levels of oxidative stress – a process where the body experiences cumulative damage by free radicals that were imbalanced by antioxidants – which is considered a major risk factor for cancer.

Scientists studied the saliva content of 20 individuals who use their cell phones for a minimum of eight hours a month. Their spit was compared to a control group, mostly deaf people, who do not use a cell phone at all.

The study found there was “considerable oxidative stress on the tissue and glands which are close to the cell phone when in use." The damage on these body parts is linked to cellular and genetic mutations that can create tumors.

While the study doesn’t draw any hard conclusions, study author Dr. Yaniv Hamzany says the next step would be to monitor a person’s saliva before being exposed to a cell phone, and then after several minutes using the device, he said in a statement.

This isn’t the first time cell phones have been linked to cancer. The National Cancer Institute points out that mobile phones emit radiofrequency energy, a form of radiation that has been known to increase the risk of cancer.  

As evidence on the long-term effects of cell phones mounts, so does the number of people using the handheld devices.

Of the world’s 7 billion people, 6 billion have cell phones – a staggering figure since fewer people have access to a toilet than an iPhone, according to the UN. That number is expected to exceed the world’s population by next year, Silicon India Magazine reports.

Some scientists say the Federal Communications Commission should revise its policy on mobile devices, which has remained unchanged since 1996, Discovery News reports.

“There were very few cell phones in service back in 1996, and now, by some estimates, there are 5 billion globally," Kerry Crofton, co-founder and executive director of Advisory Board Doctors for Safer Schools, said. "The other concern is that the standards were based only on testing a 200-pound male mannequin, but the standards do not apply to more sensitive groups, such as children, pregnant women and teens.”

Crofton compares the situation to how the delayed response of asbestos in America. “It took a hundred years for regulators to respond to that crisis, but the threat from not just cell phones, but WiFi networks and cell towers is immediate and widespread,” she said.
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