Study claims cell phone habits leading to 'horn-like' growths in young people

Nearly half of today's youth could be developing small "horn-like" growths at the back of their head, research has revealed.

University of the Sunshine Coast researchers first made the discovery in 2016, but a recent BBC article highlighted the issue.

However the report has been criticised by experts, who argue it should never have been published. 

Dr David Shahar and Associate Professor Mark Sayers x-rayed 218 people aged between 18 and 30 for the study, finding 41 percent had a small, horn-like, bony lump at the back of their skull.

The lumps measured between 10 and 30 millimetres and are believed to have been caused by poor posture.

"This is evidence that musculoskeletal degenerative processes can start and progress silently from an early age," Dr Shahar said in a statement.

"These findings were surprising because typically they take years to develop and are more likely to be seen in the ageing population."

Dr Shahar suggested the poor posture was caused by the use of hand-held technologies, for example a mobile phone, and he's now working on resources for school kids to prevent the problem.

"The bump is not the problem, the bump is a sign of sustained terrible posture, which can be corrected quite simply, " fellow researcher Dr Sayers said.

But critics say there are numerous flaws in the study. 

Writing on Medium, scientist John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin said the study "doesn't hold water", pointing out it contains conflicting data, measures the growths on different people in different ways and mistakes some ordinary skull structures for horns.

"The 2018 paper... has such a major error that Scientific Reports clearly should never have published it," he concludes.

Time reports the study also didn't ask participants about their phone use, so no comparisons could be made between heavy and light users.

"It doesn't make a bit of sense to me," Dr David J Langer, chairman of neurosurgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told the New York Times.

"You're more likely to get degenerative disc disease or misalignment in your neck than a bone spur growing out of your skull," he said.

The Times also noted the subjects were experiencing enough pain to go to a chiropractor - so the results could not be extrapolated out to the wider public.

"I haven't seen any of these, and I do a lot of X-rays," said Dr Langer. "I hate being a naysayer off the bat, but it seems a little bit far-fetched. Head horns? Come on."

The original research was published in the Journal of Anatomy, a follow-up study on the age of people affected by bone growths on the skull was published in Scientific Reports-Nature.

This article was amended on July 2 to reflect expert opinion that disagreed with the original report.