Cell Phones and Breast Cancer: What's the Risk?

  |   By Elisabeth Dale

Ever stash your cell phone in your bra? Do you worry about your risk of breast cancer? Everyday I see women walking around LA with phones tucked into the front of their bras or with noticeable rectangular bulges poking out from under their armpits.

There’s even a new bra on the market with a pocket designed for your phone. But is this easy and convenient way to carry our personal digital assistants a risky idea?

I was surprised at what I found when I took a closer look at the issue. Although studies have examined the connection between brain cancer and holding a cell phone to your head, no one has researched whether tucking one next to breast flesh might increase a woman's risk of breast cancer. But doctors, and many others, think we should be investigating this possibility.

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How can cell phones damage breast health? The government’s National Cancer Institute advises:

“Cell phones emit radiofrequency energy, a form of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation, which can be absorbed by tissues closest to where the phone is held.”

The Environmental Working Group has long been advocating for more rigorous safety standards to meet newer cell phone technologies. In their Guide to Safer Cell Phone Use they warn consumers to “hold [the] phone away from your body.”

Even the makers of the Blackberry and iPhone caution that their products should not be placed next to the skin. A CNN Health report adds that these recommendations are made because “the further the phone is from the body, the less radiation is absorbed.”

Dr. John West, of the Breast Care and Imaging Center in Orange, California, believes he has seen evidence of such a link in his practice. He wonders whether women who regularly carry their phones in their bras are increasing their risk of developing certain cancers. In this video, he urges the public to demand more rigorous scientific research. Reading through the comments on this YouTube clip, I was struck by one person’s observation that a number of women walking in a Susan G. Komen fundraiser had cell phones visibly stowed in their sports bras.

Even if you don't buy Dr. West's theory, it is worth paying attention to phone manufacturer warnings. Women should keep their cell phones out of direct contact with their breasts. This may be even more important for young women and teen girls whose sensitive breast tissue is still developing. It is this population, and those with a genetic link to breast cancer, whose breast health is put in danger by early exposure to radiation.

Former Presidential candidate, Rep. Dennis Kucinich is calling for legislation that would require warning labels on cell phones and that would list radiation levels.

What do you think? Should women be told about this potential health hazard? Will you keep your phone out of your bra and away from your breasts?


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