British Policewomen and Breast Cancer: Is the Mobile Radio Responsible?
Article submitted to the Marin Breast Cancer Watch
By Cindy Sage, Sage Associates
May 15, 2001
It was recently reported that British police women who wear mobile radios on their blouses have higher rates of breast cancer. These mobile radios give off significantlevels of radiofrequency radiation. Is there a link?
This report has again raised the question of whether exposure to electromagnetic fields, including radiofrequency radiation from the mobile radios, could be a contributing factor to breast cancer. We do not know the answer to that questionwith certainty, but we have the following benchmark information on electromagnetic fields including radiofrequency radiation, melatonin and cancer.
There is a large scientific literature on EMF (50and 60 Hz electromagnetic fields from electric sources like power lines,appliances and home wiring) and breast cancer. The weight of the evidence was judged to be sufficiently convincing that, in 1997, a consensus statement was issued by breast cancer researchers at a Washington DC conference saying that a “possible link” is established.
There is good evidence that exposure to EMF canreduce melatonin. In 1997, Richard Stevens and Bary Wilson published the “melatonin hypothesis” in a book which linked the evidence for a relationship between breast cancer and melatonin.
Generally, their hypothesis is that exposure to EMF can reduce melatonin levels. In turn, melatonin reduction has been reported to increase the rate of MCF-7 malignant breast cancer cell growth. Therefore,if any agent reduces melatonin, including radiofrequency radiation from mobilephones that these policewomen have worn, it might be a part of the problem.
However, at that time no one had specifically looked at radiofrequency radiation from sources like cell phones, mobile radios,wireless antennas and so on. The frequency range of interest here is perhaps 100 MHz to 3 GHz (3000 MHz) incomparison to power frequency fields at 50-60 Hz from electrical sources). Radiowaves and microwaves for communication and cooking are within this frequency range.
There is a very large literature on radiofrequency radiation and cancer in general. It would have been predictable that any excess cancer risk, including breast cancer, in those exposed to chronic, elevated radiofrequency radiation would be suspected to be related. Several years ago, a link between testicular cancer and radar exposure (a form of radiofrequency radiation) was alleged by police who routinely held radar guns in their laps, as they sat in their police cars. Lawsuits by police who sued radar gun manufacturers did not result in “wins”, but radar guns were redesigned so that the“on” mode required a switch to be intentionally held down to track speeders. This ensured that officers would not sitidly by with a radar gun in their laps, continually radiating into their vitals.
Some researchers who study electromagnetic fields,including the higher frequencies in the radiofrequency/microwave range think that the entire electromagnetic spectrum has the potential to be bioactive/harmful depending on the frequency, intensity and modulation of the signal. On the other hand, there is good evidence that intentional exposures of specific frequency, intensity and modulation can be healing (or bioactive for good purpose).
This is not dissimilar to pharmaceuticals,where a little can help and too much can harm. Or alternately, some forms of chemicals are healing, but only slightly different forms can be harmful or lethal. The overriding problem in the world now is that we are indiscriminately bathing ourselves in a jumble of frequencies, intensities and modulations whichwe know nothing about in terms of risk (microwaves, radar, cell phones, cellphone antennas, mobile radios, two-way radios, short-wave, AM, FM and television signals, etc).
A key study of radiofrequency radiation and cancer was published by Michael Repacholi in 1997. He reported a statistically significant 2.4-fold increase in lymphoma in mice with whole body exposure for two one-half hour sessions per day over eighteen months. He concluded that long-term, intermittent exposure to RFR can enhance lymphoma risk in mice.p
Henry Lai and Narendra Singh (1996) reported a very significant finding that RFR at microwave frequencies can break DNA at low intensity levels. These levels were below current public FCC exposure standards. DNA damage and/or failure to repair DNA damage is clearly linked to increased risk of cancer. Reports ofother types of DNA damage at environmental levels is reported by Garag-Vrhovac(1999), by Vijayalaxmi (1997), Maes (1993, 1995) and others. All these studies should act as a warning about exposure.
Hardell (1999) reported an increase in risk for brain tumors in cell phone users. The main type of tumors were malignant glioblastomas and astrocytomas, non-malignant meningiomas and acoustic neuromas.
Higher cancer rates have been reported from epidemiology studies with exposure to radiofrequency from AM and FM radiotransmitters (Dolk, 1997, Hocking, 1996). From this we have some evidence that the higher frequencies are also potentially carcinogenic, in addition to the lower frequency 50 and 60 Hz EMFs.
Hyland (2001) discusses the electromagnetic natuure of living organisms,including living human beings. He notes “their hypersensitivity to coherent, ultra weak electromagnetic signals.” This discussion underscores why it is possible that artificial radiofrequency could interact with important process in the human being, and indiscriminately causeharm. We do not know nearly enough about the nature of the electromagnetic controls in humans yet, except we know they operate, and can be affected by random radiofrequency in the environment.
Hyland discusses that “(s)ome oscillatory endogenouselectrical activities of the living human body are quite familiar – such as those of the heart and brain, which can be monitored by an electrocardiogram and electroencephalogram respectively. Equally familiar is the circadian rhythm.”
He identifies the problem of man-made RF signals inthat they have a higher degree of coherence (or are very regular) in contrast to the natural background RF and of thermal emissions at physiological temperatures,which are primarily incoherent in signal, and for which the body has evolutionary protection from harm. Coherent signals “are more easily discerned by living organisms,including humans. This greatly increases their biological potency, and ‘opens the door’ to the possibility of frequency-specific,non-thermal influences of various kinds.” The human body produces coherent signals internally for regulation of cellular processes. It is also tuned to signals from the environment that are also coherent (but extremely small inintensity). Thus it is logical that body processes can be negatively affected by these new‘technologically-produced coherent electromagnetic fields’ occuring at far higher intensities that those of nature.
The living human body depends for life process on electrical processes “whose frequencies typically lie in the microwave region of the electromagnetic spectrum.”
A search of our data base revealed eight specific studies on radiofrequency radiation and melatonin. We performed this search since the evidence for an associationbetween EMF and breast cancer was most evident by looking at the melatoninconnection. For a review of epidemiology studies on cancer, including breast cancer, see Sage Associates (1996).
Some report that radiofrequency exposure can change melatonin levels (both up and down), that melatonin can block DNA damage from radiofrequency radiation exposure, and that breast cancer rates are elevated in women in radio and telegraph occupations with presumably elevated exposure to radiofrequency.
In summary, it is possible that mobile radios could be related to an increased risk of breast cancer, where there is long-term exposure in British policewomen who wear a transmitting radio on the same part of their body over long durations. The scientific literature on exposure to non-ionizing electromagnetic fields,including radiofrequency radiation and microwave includes many studies that report increased cancer risk, and some that report changes in melatonin,particularly reductions. Therefore, the UK government is acting prudently to launch an immediate investigation. Further, those people who are required towear or carry mobile radios, who use radar technology, or who use a mobilephone on a routine basis should watch the results very carefully.
Annotated Bibliography (the references for theseare clipped pages coming by mail – my intention is to have the referencessection annotated with these paragraphs put right in by author….. if it is nottoo much information)
Burch (1997) reported that cellular telephone usesignificantly reduced urinary melatonin metabolite levels. Results indicate that occupational cellulartelephone use may be associated with reduced daytime melatonin production.
De Seze (1999) reported that melatonin was notdisrupted in 37 young male volunteers subjected to a typical pattern ofexposure to radiofrequency fields generated by two common types of cell phones.
Lai (1997) reported that DNA strrand breaks (a formof DNA damage) could be induced by exposure to radiofrequency radiation at 2450MHz (frequency at which a microwave oven operates). Melatonin treatment blocked this effect in the brain cells ofrats.
Mann (1998) reported that pulsed cellphone-frequency radiation did not affect melatonin levels, but did slightlyelevate cortisol production (this effect was transient and an adaptation of theneuroendocrine system of human volunteers). There was a suppression of REM sleep.
Stark (1997) reported that radiofrequency radiation(from short-wave transmitters at 3-30 MHz) exposure in dairy cattle did affectmelatonin secretion. Higherconcentrations of melatonin were reported following initial exposure and thenremoval, and then reintroduction of the RF exposure. A two-to seven-fold change in melatonin production was reportedwhich was statistically significant. The authors point to a possible delayed acute effect on melatoninconcentration following exposure.
Tynes (1996) reported that the incidence of breastcancer in Norwegian female radio and telegraph operators was higher than expected. A cohort of 2619 women who were certified towork as radio and telegraph operators between 1920 and 1980 was evaluated. The incidence of all cancers was close to unity(SIR = 1.2). An excess risk was seen for breast cancer (SIR=1.5). Analysis of anested case-control study within the cohort showed an association betweenbreast cancer in women aged 50+ years and shift work. These results support a possible association between work as aradio and telegraph operator and breast cancer.
(Edare – can you take the attached Abstracts to type inthe references for each of these paeprs? Sorry, out of time)
Other references in the text::
Dolk H. 1997. Cancer incidence near radio and television transmitters in GreatBritain. Am J Epidemiology 145(1):1-9
Garaj-Vrhovac V. 1999. Micronucleus assay andlymphycyte mitotic activity in risk assessment of occupational exposure tomicrowave radiation. Chemosphere 39(13) 2301-2312.
Hocking B. 1996. Cancer incidence andmortality and proximity to TV towers. Med J Aust 165(11-12):601-605.
Hyland G 2001. The Physiological andEnvironmental Effects of Non-Ionizing Electromagnetic Radiation. EP/IV/A/STOA/2000/07/03. Published by the European Parliament,Directorate for General Research, Directorate A.
Maes A. 1993. In vitro cytogeneticeffects of 2450 MHz waves on human peripheral blood lymphocytes. Bioelectromagnetics 14:495-501.
Maes A. 1995. Cytogenetic effects ofmicrowaves from mobile communication frequencies (954 MHz). Electro Magnetobiology 14:91-98.
Lai, H. 1996. Single and double strandDNA breaks in rat brain cells after acute exposure to radiofrequencyelectromagnetic radiation. International Journal of Radiation Biology 69:513-21.
Repacholi M, 1997. Lymphomas in Eµ-Pim1 Transgenic Mice exposed to pulsed 900 MHzelectromagnetic fields. RadiationResearch 147:31-40.
Sage C.L. Sampson M 1996 Epidemiology for Decision-makers –A Guide tothe Occupational and Residential Epidemiological Literature on EMF and Cancer1979-1996. Bioelectromagnetic SocietyAnnual Meeting, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Stevens R. G Wilson B. W. Anderson L.E. 1997. The Melatonin Hypothesis: BreastCancer and the Use of Electric Power. Battelle Press. 760 pp.
Vijayalaxmi, 1997 and Vijayalaxmi, 1998correction. Frequency of micronuclei inthe peripheral blood and bone marrow of cancer-prone mice chronically exposedto 2350 MHz radiofrequency radiation. Radiation Research 147 (4) 495-500. Correction of an error in calculation in the article in RadiationResearch 149 (3) 199-202.
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