Many of us know that exposure to radiation is a bad thing.

However, what we may not know is that the electrical appliances and electronic devices we use every day are emitting it constantly. As it turns out, your smartphone, tablet, computer and even your microwave emit low-level non-ionizing radiation known as radiofrequency radiation. And according to a new study, this radiation increases the risk of breast cancer in women.

The study is a meta-analysis – the first of its kind – of eight other studies that were conducted between 1996 and 2013. A meta-analysis is simply a study that analyses the results of previous studies to draw a conclusion regarding a particular subject matter.

In the study, researchers looked at several exposure types, including exposure of women who work as radio/telegraph operators or worked in the electronics industry. The meta-analysis revealed “a significant association between exposure to radio frequencies and breast cancer risk”.

Safety

Non-ionizing radiation is considered to be safe because it doesn’t have enough energy to cause cell damage or cell death.

The current scientific consensus about this type of radiation is that it doesn’t cause cancer (is non-carcinogenic). According to the National Cancer Institute, “although many studies have examined the potential health effects of non-ionizing radiation from radar, microwave ovens, cell phones, and other sources, there is currently no consistent evidence that non-ionizing radiation increases cancer risk in humans.”

Breast cancer

However, the researchers discovered from past studies that radio frequencies cause mammary cell damage. And on top of that, they also lead to the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). The researchers cited several studies that have identified these two factors to be the biggest cause of cell death.

So while the energy of radio frequencies isn’t enough to damage cells, the damage occurs due to the break down of ROS by the body. So it seems that radio frequencies aren’t as safe as they are considered to be.

Risk groups

Researchers pointed out that women who are 50 years or older are at greater risk of developing breast cancer from radio frequencies. Several reasons were given for this observation. For example, as we get older, the normal function of our organs declines. And this is believed to increase cancer risk.

Another group of women that are more at risk are those who use mobile phones, including smartphones. This is women in the 21-39 age range. Since these devices are constantly emitting radio frequencies through the antennas contained inside them, women are putting themselves at risk of breast cancer every time they hold them close to their chest.

Based on the meta-analysis, the researchers concluded there is a significant risk of breast cancer development from using electrical appliances and devices due to radiofrequency radiation.

The researchers also noted these results should lead to the further development of strategies aimed at helping people protect themselves from this radiation.