When a woman younger than 40 gets breast cancer, researchers swing into action to know why such an uncommon event happened. The commonly accepted scientific thinking for this to occur is when the woman inherited a gene for breast cancer. Another way may possibly be through exposure to radiation energy coming from a cell phone placed near the breast.
Case Report in Medicine (volume 2013) featured four young women found to have multifocal breast cancer. All of them did not have breast cancer genes. All were younger than 40 and had a years-old habit of keeping their cell phone in their bra.
The first case involved a 21-year-old woman who sought a doctor’s help because of bloody discharge from her left nipple. She admitted to keeping her cell phone in her bra for several hours each day for many years. A mammogram showed that she had extensive calcifications under the nipple area of about 12 centimeters. An MRI showed widespread abnormality in the same area shown in the mammogram. Breast surgery was conducted, and an examination of microscopic tissue revealed extensive ductal carcinoma with microfocal invasion. Fortunately, the lymph nodes did not show any spread.
Another 21-year-old woman was examined by a physician and found to have a palpable lump in her left breast, beside which she usually kept her cell phone for about six hours daily for the past six years. Again surgery was done, and tissue examination produced findings similar to those involving the woman in the first case. However, in this second woman’s case, the breast cancer had spread to the lymph nodes and bones.
A 33-year-old woman had two lumps in the right upper corner of her breast. Like the other two women, she usually kept her cell phone in her bra, but not every day. In the past two years before her diagnosis of breast cancer, she would put her cell phone in her bra while jogging three or four times a week. During this time she also used a GPS attached to her phone to indicate her location. Surgery showed extensive breast cancer similar to the first two cases. Her cancer had spread to the lymph nodes at the time of surgery.
The fourth woman was 39 years old and had the habit of keeping her cell phone in the right cup of her bra, but she used a bluetooth device to talk for several hours each day. She had similar breast cancer that had spread to the lymph nodes.
From these four cases of breast cancer in women who keep their cell phone in their bra, it is tempting to conclude that electromagnetic radiation from a cell phone is the cause of the cancer. Unfortunately, the sample is too small to make such a definitive conclusion.
But to play it safe, all users of a cell phone should try to reduce skin contact when not using it, or turn off the power. Another safeguard is to put the cell phone inside a bag, purse, or backpack, and keep it as far away from the skin with nonelectronic objects between the skin and cell phone. Using a corded headset is better than a wireless ear bud.
Some heavy users of a cell phone tuck it under their pillow when they go to bed. Avoid this habit.
If you have not read the manual of the cell phone you are using, please read and follow the warnings and recommendations. Different cell phones have their specific absorption rate, which is the measure of the maximum amount of microwave radiation absorbed by the head or body. The legal limit in the United States is 1.60 w/kg (averaged over one gram of tissue).
In short, limit your use of a cell phone, keep it away from your body whenever it is on, use it hand-free, and turn it off when not in use.
Dr. Leonardo L. Leonidas (nonieleonidas68@ gmail.com) retired in 2008 as assistant clinical professor in pediatrics from Boston’s Tufts University School of Medicine, where he was recognized with a Distinguished Career in Teaching Award in 2009. He is a 1968 graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine and now spends some of his time in the province of Aklan.