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January 10, 2018

A Breast Cancer Survivor Shares a Powerful Warning

Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

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It is rare to find anyone today who doesn't know one or more women affected by breast cancer.

Whether it’s a family member, friend, colleague, or neighbor, the impact can be devastating, even with steadily improving treatment and survival rates.

The most common procedure still the drastic physical intervention of surgically removing one or both breasts; this not only changes a woman’s physical appearance, but has major emotional effects as well.

Few breast cancer patients can afford the high costs of reconstructive surgery, so many choose to wear prostheses for a more “normal” appearance.

In some cases, however, women whose families show a pronounced genetic predisposition to breast cancer have chosen breast removal (mastectomy) as a preventive measure.

American actress Angelina Jolie elected to undergo a double mastectomy in 2013 after doctors discovered she carries a mutation to the BRCA1 gene which dramatically increases the risk of developing fatal breast or ovarian cancer.

Other entertainment celebrities to take the same radical step include Oscar-winner Kathy Bates (2013), E! News host Giuliana Rancic (2011), and actress Christina Applegate (2008).

While their personal decisions raised some controversy, they have also garnered much support for going public on such a difficult topic.

What has been called “the Angelina Effect” has resulted in many high-profile advocates calling for better education, diagnosis, treatment and research funding – all sadly deficient in many parts of the world.

During a recent trip to Egypt I met an American breast cancer survivor who has chosen another path to prevention by educating people on a cancer risk that receives far too little attention. She spoke candidly of her experience and was a great inspiration to me.

As she was a retired professor of computer science, we shared a common professional experience. She also loved traveling to Egypt, another area of mutual interest. And she feels the Trump administration poses a real danger to the USA and the world, yet another shared understanding.

In discussing how governments and the medical establishment approach breast cancer risk-reduction, I learned from this remarkable woman that one area has remained almost untouched when it comes to building a better culture of awareness around breast cancer – cell phone usage.

For more than two decades, small but insistent warning voices have come from the scientific community about the dangers of radiation exposure from prolonged cell phone usage, especially among teenaged girls.

But governments, fearing a backlash from the powerful, profit-driven cell phone industry lobby, have done virtually nothing to educate this vulnerable demographic.

Unlike those of the early 2000s, who went around with cell phones clamped to the sides of their heads and used them for spoken conversations, today’s teens and young adults are more likely to be seen using them to hear music, send text messages, or read and view material on their screens.

But since the device is always carried on or very near the body, radiation dangers are no less.

A 2G cell phone emits about up to 2 watts of peak power all the time it is on, even if not being actively used.

However, 3G and 4G smart phones can output an average transmission power up to 200mW (0.2 Watt).

That may seem a very small output, but it’s the long-term radiation energy exposure of that output that adversely impacts the human body, including the brain. Thus, the greater the exposure, the greater the risk is.

But you won’t find cell phone manufacturers or service providers voluntarily warning customers of the potential health dangers of excessive use; that would cut too deeply into their multi-billion-dollar global profits.

To return to the growing breast cancer risk associated with cell phone technology, if a woman uses her phone for an average of five hours per day for 50 years (for example, ages 12 to 62), she will have exposed her body to a worst-case average power of 200 mW x (F) x 5 hr x 365 days x 50 years ≈ 18,250 x F Watt-hours of radiation energy. 

Typical maximum transmit power of 3G and 4G phones is 200mW.

Factor (F) is a less than unity constant accounting for the transmission interval duty factor and the effective body absorption factor which is a dynamic, time-varying parameter and important aspect to consider in radiation exposure assessments.

Assuming worst case average conditions, F can be assumed to be in the range of 0.2 - 0.3, which leads to around 5,000 Watt-hours of absorbed radiation energy equivalent to 18,000,000 Joules dissipated in the body!

These figures, though approximate, are direct cursors to the individuals to watch their daily time spent on cell phone usage.

This toxic energy impacts all body cells; for men, among other dangers, it reduces their sperm count.

Children may be most vulnerable to wireless phone emissions as they absorb more radiofrequency electromagnetic fields because of their small heads, thinner skulls and higher brain conductivity[1].

Because untreated cancer is nearly always fatal, and because environmentally-caused cancers only show up as the result of cumulative exposure to toxins such as radiation, the global cell phone industry is effectively getting away with murder – as did the tobacco, alcohol and sugar industries, to name only the most pervasive culprits.

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), a category used when a causal association is considered credible, but when chance, bias or confounding cannot be ruled out with reasonable confidence[2,3].

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) suggests reserving the use of cell phones for shorter conversations, or for times when a conventional phone isn’t available.

Also, using a hands-free device places more distance between the phone and your head, significantly reducing the amount of radiation exposure[4].

It is worth emphasizing that scientific authorities and expert groups world wide have recommended reducing radiofrequency exposures.  An excerpt of a recent report is quoted herein5:

1. The Electro-Magnetic Field (EMF) Scientists Appeal:

-  In May 2015, a group of over 200 scientists from 39 nations who have authored more than 2,000 articles on this topic appealed to the United Nations to address “the emerging public health crisis” related to cell phones and other wireless devices.  These scientists state that “International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) guidelines do not cover long-­term exposure and low ­intensity effects, and are insufficient to protect public health.”

- They state that “the various agencies setting safety standards have failed to impose sufficient guidelines to protect the general public, particularly children who are more vulnerable to the effects of EMF.” See the International EMF Scientist Appeal at  https://emfscientist.org.

2. The French National Agency of Health Security of Food, Environment and Labor:

- 2016 “Radiofrequency Exposure and the Health of Children” Report recommends reducing exposures to young children and strengthening regulations to ensure "sufficiently large safety margins" to adequately protect the health of young children.

- 2013 French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety Report recommends hands free phones, SAR labeling, and “limiting the population's exposure to radiofrequencies… especially for children and intensive users, and controlling the overall exposure that results from relay antennas.”

3. Canadian Parliament Standing Committee on Health of the House of Commons:

"Radio Frequency Electromagnetic Radiation and the Health of Canadians"

- This June 2015 Canadian Parliament Report has 12 recommendations including “That the Government of Canada develop an awareness campaign relating to the safe use of wireless technologies, such as cell phones and WIFI, in key environments such as the school and home to ensure that Canadian families and children are reducing risks related to radiofrequency exposure.”

4. The Council of Europe Resolution 1815:

- In 2011 The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe issued The Potential Dangers of Electromagnetic Fields and Their Effect on the Environment. A call to European governments to “take all reasonable measures” to reduce exposure to electromagnetic fields “particularly the exposure to children and young people who seem to be most at risk from head tumours.”

“For children in general, and particularly in schools and classrooms, give preference to wired Internet connections, and strictly regulate the use of mobile phones by school children on school premises.”

References

1. Hardell L, “Effects of Mobile Phones on Children's and Adolescents' Health: A Commentary”, Child Dev., 2017 May 15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28504422

2. “IARC monographs on the evaluation of carcinogenic risks to humans: Vol. 102. Non-ionizing radiation, Part 2: Radiofrequency electromagnetic fields.”, Lyon, France, IARC. (2013). http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol102/mono102.pdf

3. Electromagnetic fields and public health: mobile phones, Fact sheet N°193, Reviewed October 2014. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs193/en/

4. “Wireless Devices and Health Concerns”, FCC, September 8, 2017. https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/wireless-devices-and-health-concerns

5. “Radiofrequency Radiation Exposures to Children in Schools.”  pp. 177-178, December 13, 2016. https://phpa.health.maryland.gov/OEHFP/EH/.../MDCEHPAC_WiFi_121316.pdf

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