Last Updated On September 21, 2015
The Truth: Cellphones + Breast Cancer

By Julia Odden

Think about running. Every runner runs differently—some run in the daytime, some run at night, some carry water, some carry gate or house keys, cash, credit cards, inhalers, calculators, small animals, or anything else. However, the one thing that I’ve never left behind when I go running is my cell phone.

I always run with my gate key, phone, and water bottle. The gate key goes in my Swoob bra, the water bottle is always in my right hand, and my phone—despite the convenient pocket beside my gate key—goes in the side of my shorts.

Whether or not carrying your phone in your bra can make you more susceptible to breast cancer is hotly debated by scientists all over the map. Some studies have shown that your phone’s radio frequency radiation can actually unravel the DNA in your cells and cause mutations similar to radiation poisoning. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), “even when cell phones are not being used for conversation or texting, if they are on [sic] then they still periodically emit low energy electromagnetic signals to stay in touch with nearby cell towers.” The question of whether these signals act in a harmful way has been researched deeply by the ACS, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Health Physics Society (HPS).

According to ACS, the correlation between women carrying their phones in their bras and early onset breast cancer does not equal causation. ACS’s article states that “based on estimates of how many young women without inherited BRCA mutations develop breast cancer and a guess about how many young women carry phones in their bras, it would not be surprising to find hundreds of women in the US with both these characteristics based entirely on coincidence” (ACS). ACS also makes it clear that no real systematic studies have been done, and until that happens, any cases of young women carrying their phones in their bras who later had breast cancer will be considered coincidence.

There has not been a specific study to support the other side of the argument, says WHO, although the organization is planning to conduct an experiment in 2016.

However, there is science that could back up the hypothesis that phones can cause cancer, and here’s why. WHO says “at the frequencies used by mobile phones, most of the energy is absorbed by the skin and other superficial tissues, resulting in negligible temperature rise in the brain or any other organs of the body.” High levels of the RF radiation we discussed earlier can cause the heating of tissue in the body known as “thermal effects.” According to Kelly Classic of HPS, “it has been known for many years that exposure to very high levels of RF radiation can be harmful due to the ability of RF energy to rapidly heat biological tissue. Tissue damage in humans could occur during exposure to high RF levels because of the body’s inability to cope with or dissipate the excessive heat that could be generated” (HPS). WHO agrees, stating that “the electromagnetic fields produced by mobile phones [RF radiation] are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as possibly carcinogenic to humans.” The area that is unclear is how high is a “high” level of radiation? Can cell phones produce enough RF radiation to cause the thermal effect on body tissue?

The other question, the one that is more pertinent to women who like to stick their phones in their bras, is whether or not it’s worth the risk. Thus far, we don’t know how potentially dangerous these RF waves can be, and we don’t know whether they truly have the ability to cause early breast cancer. The ACS and WHO don’t seem to think so, but they also concede to the point that no definitive proof has been found one way or the other. So, is it unwise for me to run with my phone in my bra?

Enter Swoob’s Panther Protective bra. Armed with pockets made of an RF-heat-deflecting material, this piece allows users to run with their phones in their bras without having to worry about the potential of the thermal effect. The theory is simple: safety first, even when we don’t know for sure if the threat is real.

For more information on RF and EMF radiation please reference the below links: 

World Health Organization 

Health Physics Society 


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