Report Links Cell Phones and Breast Cancer

By Lori Castle, Editor in Chief — November 20, 2012

In its Health Watch segment on November, 19, CBS News of Philadelphia journalist Stephanie Stahl reported that some doctors now believe that there is a link between cell phones and breast cancer.

Many women, for lack of pockets or a purse, keep their cell phones in their bras. Stahl interviewed several women on the street who said it's a convenient place to keep the device. But 21-year-old Tiffany Franz fears that's exactly how she got breast cancer. Franz had to have a mastectomy and she told Stahl, "It's kind of coincidental that it's right where I kept my cell phone."

Donna Jaynes got the disease at age 39. The report showed video of dots on Jaynes' chest where the tumors occurred — exactly distributed where her cell phone laid. Her doctors said that this was unusual, but in an interview with breast surgeon Dr. Lisa Bailey, Stahl discovered that it may be common despite the fact that doctors rarely ask about it. Bailey said she would never wear her cell phone next to her body. Jaynes told Stahl, "I thought cell phones were safe."

Men at Risk, Too
Men often tuck their phone right into their shirt pocket, and reports of breast cancer in men are on the rise as well. Also in June 2012, scientists from the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) "analyzed 10 scientific studies documenting evidence that cell phone radiation exposure leads to slower, fewer and shorter-lived sperm. The studies raise concerns for men who carry their phones on their belts or in pants pockets."

According to Stahl, the wireless industry denies any risk and the Center for Disease Control says there is no scientific evidence of health effects. Bailey says there is no evidence because not enough studies have been conducted.

Yet the iPhone owner's manual does provide instructions on minimizing your exposure to the radio frequencies cell phones emit. In fact, in August of 2012, the U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a report that said more research is needed and the FCC said that the specific absorption rates on the books right now are from 1996 and need to be reviewed.

Another surgeon interviewed for the segment said we are likely to see "clusters of young people" with breast cancer in five to 10 years if we don't learn more about the risk today. Considering the breadth of the current mobile workforce, young people are not the only ones at risk.

Fetal Development
New York law firm Bernstein Liebhard LLP issued a press release citing a recent study involving mice which uncovered evidence that exposure to cell phone radiation can impact fetal brain development, and possibly lead to hyperactivity in children. The Yale researchers who published the study in May 2012 assert that it shows there is a "biological basis" to suggest cell phone exposure can impact pregnancies.

"This finding just adds weight to numerous other studies that have found links between cell phone radiation exposure and various health ailments, including brain tumors," said a spokesperson for Bernstein Liebhard LLP. The firm is currently part of a small consortium of firms representing individuals in cell phone radiation lawsuits.

In conducting their study, the Yale researchers attached cell phones on active calls to the cages of 33 pregnant mice and left them there for the full 17 days of gestation. After the offspring were born, they were tested for memory, hyperactivity, and anxiety. Compared to mice not exposed to cell phones in utero, those that were appeared to be more active and had slightly decreased memory, according to the research team.

Recent Ruling
In October 2012, the Italian Supreme Court ruled that cell phone radiation can cause brain tumors, finding a causal link between a man's heavy cell phone use and a brain tumor he developed. According to Reuters, "The Italian case concerned company director Innocenzo Marcolini who developed a tumor in the left side of his head after using his mobile phone for 5-6 hours a day for 12 years. He normally held the phone in his left hand, while taking notes with his right hand."

The evidence in this case was based on studies conducted between 2005-2009 by a cancer specialist at the University Hospital in Orebro in Sweden, and the court believed that the study was impartial, independent research.

Protection?
EWG, whose mission it is "to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment." offers a free guide to Safer Cell Phone Use. The group also offers research studies, analysis, tips, news and links to contact the government.

The top tips include:

  • Use headset or speakerHold phone away from your body
  • Text more, talk less
  • Call when the signal is strong
  • Limit children's cell phone use
  • Skip the radiation shield, which has the opposite effect

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