Dr. Mercola | August 18 2010
The rate of breast cancer in Western countries is 10 percent higher in the left breast than in the right. This also is true for the skin cancer melanoma.
Researchers have suggested a surprising explanation for this — and for the dramatic increase in rates of breast cancer and melanoma over the past three decades.
In Japan, there is no correlation between the rates of melanoma and breast cancer, and there is no left-side prevalence for either disease. The rate of breast cancer in Japan is also significantly lower than in the West.
This may be due to differences in sleeping habits in Japan and Western countries. Previous research has shown that people prefer to sleep on their right sides, possibly as a way of reducing weight stress on the heart.
This is most likely the same in both the East and the West, but the futons used for sleeping in Japan are mattresses placed directly on the bedroom floor, in contrast to the elevated box springs and mattress of beds used in the West.
According to Scientific American:
“… [A] 2007 study in Sweden conducted between 1989 and 1993 … revealed a strong link between the incidence of melanoma and the number of FM and TV transmission towers covering the area where the individuals lived …
Consider, however, that even a TV set cannot respond to broadcast transmissions unless the weak electromagnetic waves are captured and amplified by an appropriately designed antenna. Antennas are simply metal objects of appropriate length sized to match the wavelength of a specific frequency of electromagnetic radiation.”
In the U.S., bed frames and box springs are made of metal, and the length of a bed is exactly half the wavelength of FM and TV transmissions. The maximum strength of the field develops 75 centimeters above the mattress, so when sleeping on your right side, your left side will be exposed to the highest field strength.
Dr. Mercola’s Comments:
This Scientific American article highlights some very interesting research from Sweden — a country that is on the forefront when it comes to investigating the harmful health effects of electromagnetic fields (EMF), and micro wave radiation such as that from cell phones.
Although the US is quite resistant to the idea that our everyday technology might be contributing to epidemics like heart disease and cancer, other countries, particularly in Europe, are facing this problem more head on.
Sweden, for example, formed an association called FEB – The Swedish Association for the ElectroSensitive, to address the emerging problem of electromagnetic hypersensitivity. The association produces and distributes educational literature that has helped raise awareness about the phenomenon around the world. Mast Action UK is doing similar work in Great Britain, as well as the Electromagnetic Radiation Alliance in Australia.
With everything I know about the health dangers associated with electromagnetic fields (EMF) and micro waves from cell phones, WiFi routers and cell phone towers, I’m convinced electromagnetic hypersensitivity is a real and looming health disaster.
I’ve previously written about the health dangers of EMFs and other types of radiation, especially in your bedroom, but here the researchers are linking two very specific cancers – melanoma and breast cancer — to commonly used beds, because coil-spring mattresses can actually act as a giant antenna!
Your Mattress – A Restorative Haven or a Disease-Promoting Zone?
In Western countries, the most common type of mattress is an elevated box spring that contains metal coils, while in Japan, people typically sleep on futon mattresses, which typically contain cotton or wool, placed directly on the floor.
According to researchers Hallberg and Johansson, a number of studies indicate that increasing rates of melanoma (the deadliest type of skin cancer) can be linked to immune-disrupting radiation from FM radio and TV transmission towers, adding that “geographical areas covered by several transmitters show higher incidences of melanoma than areas covered by one transmitter.”
Studies have also linked radiation to brain tumors, and DNA damage that might precipitate a number of different diseases and health problems.
These connections are strengthened when you consider the researchers’ explanation of how your box spring mattress actually acts like an antenna; attracting and amplifying whatever radiation might be zipping through your bedroom.
Scientific American explains this quite well:
“Antennas are simply metal objects of appropriate length sized to match the wavelength of a specific frequency of electromagnetic radiation. Just as saxophones are made in different sizes to resonate with and amplify particular wavelengths of sound, electromagnetic waves are selectively amplified by metal objects that are the same, half or one quarter of the wavelength of an electromagnetic wave of a specific frequency.
Electromagnetic waves resonate on a half-wavelength antenna to create a standing wave with a peak at the middle of the antenna and a node at each end, just as when a string stretched between two points is plucked at the center.
In the U.S. bed frames and box springs are made of metal, and the length of a bed is exactly half the wavelength of FM and TV transmissions that have been broadcasting since the late 1940s.
… Radiation envelops our bodies so that the maximum strength of the field develops 75 centimeters above the mattress in the middle of our bodies.
When sleeping on the right side, the body’s left side will thereby be exposed to field strength about twice as strong as what the right side absorbs.”
Could this explain why Japan has much lower rates of cancer compared to the US and Europe, and why the Japanese do not have higher rates of left- than right-sided breast cancer?
I believe it may be a part of the puzzle, yes.
Naturally, there are many other factors that come into play as well, including diet, chemical exposures, and vitamin D deficiency, just to name a few.
However, the theory that you may be promoting cancer by sleeping on a metal coil-spring mattress that amplifies ambient radiation is quite convincing.
Now, a couple of my readers have commented that the quote from Scientific American makes little sense because TV and radio broadcast on a number of different wavelengths, and beds come in many different sizes.
These concerns can also be valid, and I make no claims of having the in-depth technological expertise to either support or refute this particular Scientific American author’s explanation.
However, I believe sleeping on metal is not in your best interest health-wise, (and qualified scientist raised the question to begin with). The total effect will naturally be entirely individual, and dependent on a number of factors, such as the amount of radiation zipping through your room; proximity to transmission towers; number and type of electronics kept in your bedroom and their proximity; your current state of health and your susceptibility to EMF; the material of the rest of your bed… I could go on, but I’m sure most of you are wise enough to get the picture.
Becoming truly health conscious is much like reaching for spiritual enlightenment. It’s not about nitpicking on minor details. It’s about discerning patterns and revealing the big picture. It’s not about avoiding “sins” – in the case of health, avoiding everything that could possibly harm you – it’s about making healthier, saner choices. You can’t make those choices unless you know what’s good for you, and one of the ways you discover better options is by revealing what’s detrimental.
There’s no question in my mind that EMFs can have a dramatic, negative effect on your health, and certain factors may, in some cases, turn up the dial on EMFs and increase it’s harmful effects. Could your mattress do this? I say, “possibly, yes.”
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