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Blame Beds For Breast Cancer, Melanoma?

July 15, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging
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Radiation from radio and TV signals, amplified by the metal parts of mattresses and box springs, may cause breast cancer and melanoma—especially on the left side—among people in Western countries, two Swedish researchers suggest.

The researchers are Örjan Hallberg, MSc, of Hallberg Independent Research and Olle Johansson, PhD, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

Their study, published in the journal Pathophysiology, seeks to explain several odd facts: In Western countries, breast cancer occurs more frequently on the left side (by about 8 percent) in both women and men. Melanoma also occurs more frequently on the left side (by about 10 percent), and it’s most common on the hip and thighs for women and the trunk for men—areas that normally don’t get much sun exposure. In Japan, the melanoma rate is only about 3 percent of what it is in Sweden, the breast cancer rate is only 40 percent of the reported rates in the United Kingdom and the United States, and the prostate cancer rate is only about 10 percent of the rates in the United Kingdom and the United States. Also, the Japanese show no left-right difference in breast cancer or melanoma rates.

Hallberg and Dr. Johansson’s conclusions: Metal box springs and mattress parts act as a “half-wave antenna” for TV and FM radio waves because their length is about half a 100 megahertz FM signal’s wavelength. (In Western countries, the FM band covers 87.5 to 108 MHz, which falls between channels 6 and 7 in the broadcast TV spectrum.)

Hallberg and Dr. Johansson say the radiation would be strongest a little more than two feet above the middle of the bed’s metal parts—right around the hips, thighs, and trunk. They note studies showing that both men and women prefer to sleep on their right side. Thus, the left side would more often be in the hypothesized danger zone.

And why would things be different among the Japanese? In Japan, FM radio uses lower frequencies of 76 to 90 MHz, and most people sleep on futons (which have no metal parts) placed directly on the floor.

This is all hypothetical, based on theories and examinations of other studies, not on field measurements of radiation. Hallberg and Dr. Johansson also note: “There are of course many other differences between populations in Japan and Western countries, related to lifestyle and genetic factors.”

Still, their ideas are … intriguing.

Related seminar: Women’s and Breast Imaging

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