LONDON (Reuters) - Italian scientists have raised new health concerns about the safety of using mobile phones, with research showing radiowaves from the handsets makes cancerous cells grow more aggressively.
When Fiorenzo Marinelli and his colleagues at the National Research Council (news - web sites) in Bologna exposed leukemia cells in the laboratory to 48 hours of continuous radiowaves, they initially killed the cancer cells but then made the surviving tumor cells replicate more rapidly.
"We don't now what the effects would be on healthy human cells," Marinelli told New Scientist magazine on Wednesday.
Cancer develops when control signals in a normal cell go wrong and an abnormal cell results. Instead of destroying itself, the mutant cell keeps on dividing and forms a lump or tumor.
In the Italian study, after 24 hours 20% more leukemia cells died than healthy cells but longer exposure to the radiowaves triggered genes in the surviving cancer cells, in a type of defense mechanism, to divide aggressively.
The results of the study do not show any direct threat to human health, but they support the belief of some scientists that radiation can damage DNA and destroy the cell repair system, which can make tumors more deadly.
But animal studies, including recent research by Australian scientists at the Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science in Adelaide, have shown that radiation from mobile phones does not trigger the growth of tumors.
The World Health Organization (news - web sites) has called for more research into the potential health hazards of mobile phones and has urged people to limit their use of them.
A British government inquiry, which concluded that there was no evidence that mobile phones are a danger to health, has advised parents to discourage their children, whose brains are still developing, from using them excessively.
Informant: Tim Campbell