You Asked: Is it true that keeping a cell phone in a bra can cause breast cancer?

cell phonesYesterday Dr. Oz had a 21 year old woman as a guest who believes that keeping a cell phone in her bra for four years caused her breast cancer. Oz described that the location of the tumour corresponded to the placement of the cell phone. A surgeon then described that he had seen several other similar cases in young women who had no family history of the disease. In theory a cellphone triggering breast cancer does not seem plausible. The electromagnetic fields produced are way too weak to have an effect on living tissue by any known mechanism and despite that loud rhetoric coming from some alarmists, there has been no increase in brain tumours since cell phones have become popular. Of course I’m not an expert on breast cancer, but I do have access to noted surgical oncologist Dr. David Gorski whose opinion I value. Here are his comments:

“Breast cancer in women under 25 is fairly rare, but it happens. Over my 14 year career thus far since I finished my fellowship, I personally have treated a 19-year-old for breast cancer (my youngest breast cancer patient ever thus far in my career), a handful of women, no more than 10, in their 20s (one of whom was 26 and pregnant at the time of her diagnosis), and more women in their 30s than I can remember. (I just operated on a 33 year old on Wednesday.) A former partner of mine once treated a 14-year-old. Moreover, the vast majority of breast cancer cases, including breast cancer in young women, are not linked to genetic predisposition; more than 80% are sporadic; so it means almost nothing that these women didn’t have a family history or other evidence of a genetic predisposition. As for women under 40, it is hardly impressive to have found four women under 40 with breast cancer who might have been keeping their cell phones in their bras.

That being said, how many 21-year-olds hold their cell phones in their bra or in shirt pockets near their breasts? I’d guess a lot. It’s almost certainly a coincidence and impossible to tell otherwise without some serious epidemiology. Like the case for brain cancer, biologically it makes no sense. If cell phone radiation caused cancer, it would almost certainly cause skin cancers in the same area; yet we hear nothing of that. Why not lung cancers as well? It just doesn’t make sense.”

Oz concluded that a few cases are not compelling evidence but nevertheless women should find places other than bras to keep their cell phones. Sounds reasonable.

Joe Schwarcz

2 Responses to “You Asked: Is it true that keeping a cell phone in a bra can cause breast cancer?”

  1. fredchurch says:

    i know a lady that carries her cell phone in her bra but she also carries her wallet there and the cell phone rests on top if the wallet so its about 3 quarters of a inch away from her skin. this would be the safest way so im told.

  2. Kendra Kroll says:

    I agree absolute cause and effect is impossible to determine here. But if there is an alternative way that lessens one’s risk, why not implement that instead? have an alternative. this patented solution keeps cell away from chest and off the skin altogether. Highly useful for many other things besides cell phones too. See what I mean at http://www.portapocket.com

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