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From the health desk: Tips from MU Health Services about cell phones and breast cancer

Paraguayan model Larissa Riquelme seen with cell phone cleveage.

Kathryn Treaster RN, BSN
Grad Asst, MU Health Services

Cell phones are everywhere and most people would be lost without them. They are a great way to keep in touch with family and friends, occupy your time when you are bored, and they provide instant access to the internet as there is always “an app for that”. The world is at your fingertips, but at what cost?
What you may not know is that recent findings have shown a possible link between breast cancer and those who store their cell phone in their bra or shirt pocket. Cancer doctors in California and Pittsburgh have found what they are calling a “possible link” between women who store their cell phones in their bra, and the development of breast cancer. In a recent article by Dr. West, an oncologist from California, he explained, “We now have a total of four patients under 40 years of age with multiple breast cancers in the area where their cell phones were in contact with their breasts”. These patients did not have a family history of breast cancer or any other known risk factors for developing breast cancer. These patients had a 3-4 year history of storing their cell phones in their bras and were diagnosed as having multiple small breast cancers directly below where their cell phones were placed in direct contact with their breasts.

Paraguayan model Larissa Riquelme seen with cell phone cleveage.
Paraguayan model Larissa Riquelme seen with cell phone cleavage.

There is concern that there may be a relationship between cell phone exposure and the risk of developing cancer. More research needs to be done in this area as there is no way to prove that exposure to the radiation emitted by the cell phones caused these cancers. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded in 2011 that radio frequency fields (RF), such as those from cell phones, may cause cancer but more research is needed before this can be confirmed. In July 2012 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) noted that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) energy exposure limits may not reflect the latest research. The report also notes that current measures do not address the issue of direct contact with the skin, and warn that prolonged skin contact could result in RF energy exposure higher than the FCC limit.
Although safety data on skin contact with cell phones is lacking, cell phone manuals recommend that skin contact with cell phones be avoided. For example, the iPhone 4 Product Information Guide states that “when carrying the iPhone, keep it 1.5 cm (5/8 inch) or more away from your body to ensure exposure levels remain at or below the maximum levels”. The user manual for the BlackBerry 9620 Smartphone states that “when you wear the BlackBerry device close to your body, use a RIM approved holster with an integrated belt clip or maintain distance of 0.98 in. (25 mm) between your BlackBerry device and your body while the BlackBerry device is transmitting.” The manual also states that the long-term effects of exceeding RF exposure standards might present a risk of serious harm.
We may not know the true incidence and risk of breast cancer from cell phones for years to come. In the meantime, promoting awareness of the possible effects of keeping your cell phone in your bra can leave the choice up to you. Do you want to take the risk of acquiring breast cancer just to keep your cell phone with you at all times? In the meantime here’s what you can do:
Educate yourself: Read the user’s manual/product information guide regarding skin contact and radiation exposure to the skin.
You be the judge: Read about other young women and men who have developed breast cancer under the exact area where they stored their cell phone. Read Tiffany’s story, a local 21 year old that was diagnosed and treated. www.caringbridge.org/visit/tiffanyfrantz, www.breastcare.com, www.beawarefoundation.org,
Don’t be a statistic: Keep your cell phone out of your bra!! Education is the first step in prevention.
Remember: Bras and shirt pockets are “NO PHONE ZONES.”

International Education Week