I was seeing patients in my office when I was told that Anita Pepper, the executive producer of the Oz Show, was on the phone. She wanted to talk to me about cell phones and breast cancer. I was immediately concerned that this issue was not ready for prime time. I was greatly relieved when Anita explained to me that she understood that there is no proof that cell phones can cause cancer. Their plan was to interview Tiffany Frantz, a 22 year old woman who was diagnosed with a breast cancer directly below where she placed her cell phone in her bra. The goal was to inform girls and young women that there is a potential risk in placing the cell phone in direct contact with the breast, and that this behavior should be avoided.
I concluded that it was a great opportunity to get the word out, and so a few days later I was on a red-eye to NYC. After a few hours of sleep I arrived at the show with a major case of jet-lag. One of the major delights of the trip was to meet Tiffany and her mother Tracy in person. Tiffany is a petite and unassuming young woman who has the courage to make her very private story very public. Her goal is simple. She does not want to have what happened to her happen to other women. Tiffany and her mom are a dynamic duo committed to making women aware of the potential risk of storing cell phones in their bras.
After a brief orientation the three of us were escorted to a waiting area outside the main studio. Upon entering the waiting area, the sounds emanating from the energized live audience were almost deafening. I actually had a jolt of anxiety in response to the overwhelming roar of the crowd, but as we entered the very large room where the show was to be recorded, it was actually comforting to experience the enthusiasm of the audience.
Dr. Oz interviewed Tiffany first. She stood up bravely and told her story to a captivated audience. Dr. Oz next interviewed Tracy who told the audience what it was like to be the mother of a 21 year old who was just diagnosed with breast cancer. By the time Dr. Oz got to me there wasn’t a dry eye in audience. Dr. Oz was all business and in complete control. I got the distinct impression that he runs the Oz show much like he runs the operating room when he is doing cardiac surgery.
He has a wonderful smile that immediately puts his guest at ease. You can soon judge for yourself how the interview went once the air date is announced. From my perspective it was a great success since we covered all the main points which include the following:
Question no. 1:
Is Tiffany’s case just a chance event or is it the tip of the iceberg? The answer, of course, is that we don’t know. It may take decades to get a final answer, as was the case with cigarettes and lung cancer. In the meantime, cell phones are getting more powerful, and people start using them at a younger age and for longer periods of time. If this is the tip of the iceberg, the number of women at risk could be enormous.
Question no. 2:
How do the cell phone manufactures respond to this issue? Virtually all manufactures place a warning in their manuals to avoid skin contact. Blackberry goes a step further and states that failure to follow their safety instruction could result in serious harm. View the BlackBerry 9620 Smartphone Safety and Product Information.
Question no. 3:
How common is the practice of storing the cell phone in the bra? We have done a survey of college girls that showed that 40% of the responders stored their cell phones in their bras on a daily basis. Additionally, 3% of responders stored their cell phones in their bras for more than 10 hrs. per day.
Finally, Dr. Oz asked me, “what concerns you most about this issue?” My answer was simple: “I am most concerned about high school girls who think it is cool to store their cell phones in their bras.” Tiffany is a classic example. Her mother repeatedly told her to keep her cell out of her bra, but like most teenage girls, she did not follow her mother’s advice. I am concerned that young women with developing breasts may be at increased risk of developing cancer in response to contact with radiation from cell phones. We know this to be the case with exposure to the radiation associated with chest x-rays. Although the (microwave) radiation emitted from cell phones is not as powerful as that associated with chest x-rays, the combination of young age and prolonged direct skin contact may prove to be the answer as to why Tiffany and other young women with no known risk factors are developing breast cancer at a young age.
The segment ended with Dr. Oz encouraging parents to take a lead role in making the bra a “No Cell Zone.”