Do Cell Phones Increase the Risk of Breast Cancer?
Name: Patrick K. Kimuyu
Breast cancer has been presenting diverse trends for decades and its increased prevalence in young women has raised concern among scientists. In practice, breast cancer is characterized by the growth of tumor cells in the breast tissue. Breast cancer is believed to have claimed many human lives in the past four decades, but its prevalence has decreased significantly due to improved disease awareness and treatment (Coltrera & Kaelin, 2005). Additionally, the observed decrease in cancer prevalence rate is also attributed to effective breast cancer screening that has enabled healthcare professionals to detect breast cancer cells at the early stages of the disease onset. Recent medical data show that about 230, 480 women in the U.S have invasive breast cancer. Further medical reports show that 57, 650 women have developed non-invasive breast cancer (Stoppler, 2016). Consequently, it is estimated that the prevalence rate of breast cancer has reached 13 percent, and this has made the number of breast cancer survivors in the U.S to reach 2.5 million individuals. Ductal breast cancer has been identified to be the most prevalent with a prevalence rate of 80% while lobular cancer comes second with 15% prevalence rate. Other types of breast cancers such as inflammatory breast cancer, medullary cancer and angiosarcoma account for 5% of all breast cancer cases (Ogden, 2004). Breast cancer is posing serious threats to women, although men have also been found to suffer from breast cancer. Therefore, this paper will provide an overview of breast cancer disease. It will also answer the research question: ‘Does women carrying cell phones in their bras increase their chances of breast cancer, making breast cancer more frequent in younger women?’
Breast cancer begins as asymptomatic disease, but its signs and symptoms become conspicuous as the disease progresses. Ordinarily, abnormality on mammography is usually suspected to be caused by cancerous cells in the breast tissue. Additionally, development of persistent breast lump especially above the collarbone and the armpit serve as the principal signs of breast cancer (Stoppler, 2016). Other symptoms of breast cancer include nipple inversion and breast discharge, but intensive evaluation has to be conducted by a physician.
It has been found that breast cancer in women is caused by issues associated to age and gender, but there are no known etiological agents. Risk factors that are believed to be associated to breast cancers are usually categorized into three determinants: environmental factors, hormonal and reproductive factors, and family history factors (Stoppler, 2016). Recent epidemiologic analysis indicates that about 78 percent of breast cancer occurs in postmenopausal women. Further epidemiological studies show that about 73% of breast cancer in women is caused by environmental factors (Ogden, 2004).
Breast cancer diagnosis includes mammography, examination of the breast and ultrasonography. However, biopsy analysis serves as the definitive approach to diagnose breast cancer in women. Breast examination is conducted to identify the lump, and then mammograms help to define the nature of the breast lump. Ultrasound and MRI provide detailed information about conditions identified through mammography (Stoppler, 2016). Finally, histopathological investigations are carried out using breast tissue biopsy so as to identify cancerous cells.
Treatment of breast cancer consists of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. Chemotherapy involves adjuvant chemotherapy and therapeutic chemotherapy, and this approaches aim at destroying cancer cells. On the other hand, Lumpectomy help to remove tumor cells through surgery while radiation involves directing radiation beams to the affected region so as to destroy cancerous cells (Stoppler, 2016).
In a general, breast cancer seems to be claiming the lives of women in the United States of America at an alarming rate. Therefore, efficient breast cancer management approaches are required so as to curb the problem. Some of the key approaches include public awareness, disease screening and treatment. The population requires vast understanding about predisposing risk factors, so as to be informed of the appropriate measures that will help reduce the prevalence of breast cancer among women (Ogden, 2004).
Owing to the link between breast cancer and cell phones use among young women who keep their cell phones in their bras, there seems to be immense controversy because there is no universal understanding among scientists. Some scientists maintain that, cell phone use do not have association with increased risk of cancer in humans while others refute such claims and support their stand with research findings.
Currently, the number of women carrying cell phones in their bras has increased significantly. That is, probably the principal reason as to why some scientist suggest the increasing trends of new cancer cases in young women is related to their cell phone storage. Johnson (2013) reports “millions of women, especially young ones, choose to keep their cell phone in their bra. It is convenient because it allows women to ditch their purse and remain hands-free” (par. 3). It has also been found out that most clothes worn by women do not have pockets, and this seems to be the reason, as to why they prefer storing their items in the purse including cell phones. However, the bra is as much convenient for cell phone storage as the purse, although it has some advantages over the purse. For instance, storing cell phones in bras enables women to continue receiving calls in noisy environments because it is easy to receive ringing alerts when the cell phone is in vibration mode. These are the principal reasons as to why “women carrying cell phones in their bras is becoming even more popular; in fact, bras with pockets for cell phones are now on the market” (Johnson, 2013, par. 9). In a recent survey conducted among college females, 40% of young women were found to be placing cell phones in their bras in which 3% of college females reported storing cell phones in brasseries for more than 10 hours a day (Johnson, 2013).
Over the past two decades, there have been concerns on the breast cancer risks caused by cell phones. Therefore, the principal question that everybody concerned should ask is why there is concern that cell phones may be increasing cancer risks among young women. Currently, the trends of new breast cancer cases among young women in the U.S are assuming upward trends unlike in the past when the rate of breast cancer in women aged below 34 years remained at 1.8% (SEER, 2014). In theory, there are several reasons as to why scientists are concerned with the health consequences of cell phones, especially with regard to breast cancer, which is presenting new trends among the U.S population and the world at large. Some of the main reasons include the emission of non-ionizing radiation, increase in cell phones among women and the length of cell phone storage in the bras. It is believed that cell phones emit non-ionizing radiation, which is referred to as radiofrequency energy. These radio waves are absorbed by the areas adjacent to the cell phone, although their absorption depends on the specific absorption rate (SAR) of a given cell phone. The second reason, as to why scientists have raised concern over the storage of cell phones in the bras of women is that the number of women with cell phones has increased significantly given that 303 million people in the United States were subscribed to cell phone services by 2010. This was a three-fold increase from 2000 in which the total number of cell phone subscribers was found to be 110 million. On the other hand, cell phone subscription has increased significantly around the globe since the invention of cell phones in which the total number of cell phone subscribers is estimated to be 5 billion. This reveals that a high percentage of women are exposed to breast cancer risk if at all there is any link between cell phones and breast cancer. Thirdly, scientists have raised concern over the matter because most women are extending the time they store cell phones in their bras to as high as 10 hours a day as it was reported in the survey conducted in college females. This is believed to increase the breast exposure to radiations. Ordinarily, low absorptions of radio waves from cell phones do not contain adequate energy to damage DNA molecules in the exposed body region (West et al., 2013). The American Cancer Society (2016) reports “at very high levels; RF waves can heat up body tissues, but the levels of energy given off by cell phones are much lower, and are not enough to raise temperatures in the body” (par. 4). Therefore, it is suggested that increased exposure of young women’s’ breasts to radio waves from cell phones stored in their bras may be causing DNA damage in the adjacent breast areas leading to the development of invasive tumors. It is believed that, these cell phone radiations may cause increased harm on the breast of young females compared to women aged 34 years and above because young breast exhibit diverse developmental feature such as high levels of metabolism and DNA replication for cellular growth.
Despite the revelations that cell phones may be increasing the risk of cancer, especially with regard to breast cancer in young women who have developed habits of storing their cell phones in bras, research studies on the issue of cell phones and cancer risks present controversial findings.
Currently, there is no evidence showing that radiofrequency energy emitted by cell phones causes cancer in humans nor is there evidence of cancer-causing effects on cells or laboratory animals. Ordinarily, ionizing radiations such as X-rays are known to cause cancer in humans through enhancing cancer-causing carcinogens which cause DNA damage, but non-ionizing radiations such as the radiofrequency energy produced by cell phones have not been found to be adequate for causing DNA damage (National Cancer Institute, 2016). In practice, DNA damage enhances the development of cancer; thus, low frequency radiations such as RF suggest the lack of epidemiological link between the increased incidence rates of breast cancer among young females who store cell phones in their bras.
In general, earlier research studies, which investigated the possible connection between cell phones and cancer, did not show any significant link between the two. These studies involved diverse research designs to investigate the issue extensively. In one of the research study which was referred to as a ‘cohort study’, a large group of research participants was investigated over a long period. Thereafter, the rates of tumors between the population that used cell phones and non-cell phone user were compared, although there were no significant differences between the two groups. On the other hand, a case-control study was also carried out to ascertain whether cell phones were related to cancer risks. For instance, “the international CEFALO study, which compared children who were diagnosed with brain cancer between ages 7 and 19 with similar children who were not, found no relationship between their cell phone use and risk for brain cancer” (National Cancer Institute, 2016, par. 19). The second case-control study, which was carried out in the U.S failed to demonstrate any correlation between cell phone use and cancer risk. Despite the different approaches adopted in these studies, the phenomenon remained uncertain; thus, prompting scientist to engage in intensive research findings. In the past two decades, several research studies have been conducted in which some of them have produced significant research results.