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TUMOR RUMORS

Do cell phones cause brain tumors? What about a wire bra, does it cause breast tumors to develop? - Consumers have been in a bit of a frenzy of late as new studies about cell phones and cancer emerged over the past few weeks, and as Congress held hearings in recent days on the issue. This followed a blog discussion earlier this summer about the effects of wire bras on the risk of breast cancer. - With all the tumor rumors and other concerns passed over the Internet these days that stir up consumer angst, I decided to take a look at what was true and what might be fiction.

First of all, there are no conclusive studies about the effects of cell phone use on the development of brain cancer or connections between wire bras on breast cancer.

But there are some things consumers should know about both issues:

The cell phone issue resulted from a recent report, "Cellphones and Brain Tumors: 15 Reasons for Concern," presented by an international group of researchers.

In a release about the report, Lloyd Morgan, lead author and member of the Bioelectromagnetics Society says, "Exposure to cellphone radiation is the largest human health experiment ever undertaken, without informed consent, and has some 4 billion participants enrolled. Science has shown increased risk of brain tumors from use of cellphones, as well as increased risk of eye cancer, salivary gland tumors, testicular cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and leukemia. The public must be informed."

Still, the research is not conclusive. That's ultimately not good for consumers, because the reality is we don't want to discover the truth too late.

At issue is whether the low frequency "nonionizing" radiation emitted by such sources as cell phone antennas cause tumors. Researchers know that high frequency "ionizing" sources such as X-rays are a serious risk to the human body.

Until we know for sure, consumers can reduce their risk by taking some precautions. They include using hands-free tools that keep the antenna away from the head and limiting the length of time spent on a cell phone.

Regardless of the effect of cell phone radiation on the body, these steps can help in prevention.

"Everything in health right now is geared toward risk reduction and prevention," said Dr. Shaila Raj, a Clearwater oncologist and member of the Florida Cancer Specialists and board member of the American Cancer Society.

So what about wire bras? After all, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

"There are no scientifically valid studies that show wearing bras of any type causes breast cancer," the American Cancer Society notes in its fact sheet on bras and breast cancer.

"Definitively, they do not contribute to breast cancer," said Dr. Margaret Lewin, medical director of the Aventura-based Cinergy Health and a leading expert in women's health, hematology and medical oncology.

"This rumor seems to have started after a book called Dressed to Kill," which did not include a seriously regarded study.

Lewin and Dr. Ted Gansler, of the American Cancer Society, say studies have shown the real issue is not the bras themselves but breast size or obesity.

"We are unaware of any peer-reviewed research that supports or refutes a causal association between bra use and breast cancer risk," Gansler noted in a statement.

So here's the Edge:

-Limit time spent on cell phones or use hands free devices. If there is any room for concern about cell phones and tumors, some of the issue can be mitigated with changes in how the phones are used. Extensive cell phone conversations increase a person's exposure to the low-frequency radiation. Hands-free devices help keep the phone away from the brain.

-Exercise and watch your diet to lower breast cancer risk. Though it appears that wire bras are not a source of concern, obesity is a significant one. Proper diet and exercise can help in the prevention of breast cancer.

Ivan Penn can be reach at ipenn@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2332. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Consumers_Edge.

Tips for lowering risk of breast cancer

- Maintain a healthy body weight. Women 5 feet tall should maintain a weight less than 128 pounds. Women 5 feet 5 inches tall should maintain a weight less than 150 pounds.

- Minimize or avoid alcohol. There has been a definitive link between heavy alcohol use and breast cancer. A glass of wine a day won't hurt.

- Eat as many fruits, vegetables and whole grains as possible. About 12 to 15 servings a day is recommended. A serving is about a 1/2 cup of vegetables. A big salad is about 5 or 6 servings. Broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts are highly recommended.

- Exercise. Doctors suggest about 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day.

Source: Dr. Margaret Lewin, medical director of the Aventura-based Cinergy Health.

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