Breast Cancer at a Surprisingly Young Age: Are Cellular Phones to Blame?

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When a 21-year-old with no family history of breast cancer presented with bloody nipple discharge and extensive tumors right where her cell phone rested in her bra, her doctors took notice. She wasn’t alone – three more women under 40, all with cell phones tucked in their bras for hours each day, had nearly identical tumors. A coincidence, or cause for concern?

For years, people have questioned whether radiation from cell phones could be dangerous. While the radio waves cell phones emit are non-ionizing, meaning they don’t directly damage DNA like x-rays, studies on the health effects have been mixed and inconclusive.1 Most research has focused on brain tumors, as people worried holding phones to their heads could cause harm. While some major studies have found little evidence definitively linking cell phone use to brain cancer,2,3 others raise red flags. In fact,, a natural health database, has indexed 28 studies to date showing an association between brain cancer and cell phone use or radiation exposure.4 These studies can be viewed on their public page on their database here. The research landscape is complex, but clearly warrants a precautionary approach.

case series now over a decade old spotlights a different potential risk that has flown under the radar – the dangers of tucking phones in bras, directly against sensitive breast tissue, for hours each day. West et al. report on four women between the ages of 21 and 39 who developed invasive breast cancers clustered exactly where they had stowed their cell phones in their bras.5 None had a family history of breast cancer or genetic mutations predisposing them to the disease. This association is reminiscent of clinical research showing a disproportionately high incidence of breast cancer in the upper outer quadrant of the breast, presumably from metalloestrogen exposure to aluminum from antiperspirants.

The tumors in the cell phone case study were strikingly similar. All were hormone receptor-positive and had nearly identical appearances under the microscope. What’s more, the cancers were multifocal, with multiple tumors in the same area of the breast, but limited to the region where the phones made contact.

When doctors see breast cancer in such young women, they search for risk factors like inherited BRCA mutations. But these women were negative for the BRCA genes, highlighting the need to explore environmental exposures. “We are seeing younger and younger women with breast cancer and no family history, so we need to identify other potentially modifiable risk factors,” notes Dr. Robert Nagourney, one of the authors. This may further highlight BRCA’s questionable status as a breast cancer predictor.

Could carrying cell phones snug against the breast be one of those factors? Animal studies hint there may be reason for concern. Research has shown cell phone radiation can cause potentially premalignant changes to breast tissue, increase oxidative stress, and even coax normal cells to behave more like cancer cells.6,7 The effect may be amplified in still-developing breast tissue. Indeed, contains a database on electromagnetic field harms that includes over 1,000 studies, many of which implicate non-native EMFs in carcinogenesis, including in breast cancer.

While the case report alone can’t prove cause and effect, it should prompt more research, the authors believe. Current cell phone safety guidelines are based on preventing the brain from overheating and don’t consider direct skin contact or non-thermal effects.8 “Until we fully understand these devices and their potential impact, keeping them away from our bodies seems prudent,” Dr. Nagourney advises.

Some natural health experts recommend an extra measure of caution. “Research clearly shows even non-ionizing radiation can increase inflammation and stress on the body,” notes Dr. Andrew Weil, a leader in integrative medicine. “For sensitive areas like the breasts, the precautionary principle should apply – minimize exposure until we know more.”9

Fortunately, it’s easy to reduce risk by carrying phones in purses or bags instead of bras, Dr. Weil advises. For times they must be kept on the body, many companies now make special shielding cases that deflect radiation away from skin. Taking breaks from wearing phones against the body also makes sense.

Most importantly, this report underscores the need for more research and for updating cell phone safety standards to reflect how people actually use the devices today, the authors urge. “A lot has changed in terms of how much we use phones and how we carry them since safety guidelines were first established,” West points out. “At the very least, this case series argues for revisiting those standards and studying the long-term impacts of extensive skin contact.”

While waiting for the science to evolve, prudence around cell phone habits seems wise. These cases may be rare, but if they spur more research and encourage people to rethink how they carry phones, the women sharing their stories will have made an important impact. For now, the doctors’ orders are clear: Don’t stash the phone in your bra. Your breasts – and your health – could depend on it.

Note: While this case study raises valid concerns around the role of non-native EMF in contributing to carcinogenesis, the fact remains that the overdiagnosis and overtreatment of cancer, including breast cancer, is occurring at epidemic levels. It is essential that the medical and research community explore fundamental questions around cancer’s true nature, in order to differentiate those cases of tissue abnormalities that are actually threatening to the quality and length of life of their patients and those that are not. To learn more about the topic, consult the book by’s founder Sayer Ji titled, REGENERATE: Unlocking Your Body’s Radical Resilience with the New Biology, specifically Chapter 4: Beyond Gene Mutation: Cancer’s Origins, Prevention and Treatment and Life-Saving Patient Empowerment and Resilience Strategies.


1. Robert Baan et al., “Carcinogenicity of Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields,” The Lancet Oncology 12, no. 7 (2011): 624-626,

2. “Cell Phones and Cancer Risk,” National Cancer Institute, accessed May 10, 2023,

3. INTERPHONE Study Group, “Brain Tumour Risk in Relation to Mobile Telephone Use: Results of the INTERPHONE International Case-Control Study,” International Journal of Epidemiology 39, no. 3 (2010): 675-694,

4. “Mobile Phone Radiation Linked To Brain Cancer,”, accessed May 10, 2023,

5. John G. West et al., “Multifocal Breast Cancer in Young Women with Prolonged Contact Between Their Breasts and Their Cellular Phones,” Case Reports in Medicine 2013 (2013): 1-5,

6. Philippa D. Dabre, “Environmental Chemicals, Breast Cancer Progression and Drug Resistance,” Nature Reviews Cancer 20, no. 11 (2020): 650-667,

7. Igor Yakymenko et al., “Oxidative Mechanisms of Biological Activity of Low-Intensity Radiofrequency Radiation,” Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine 35, no. 2 (2015): 186-202,

8. “Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) for Cellular Telephones,” Federal Communications Commission, accessed May 10, 2023,

9. Andrew Weil, “Are WiFi and Cell Phones a Cancer Risk?” March 21, 2020,

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