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Do Bras Really Cause Breast Cancer?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2016
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The short answer to this question is no, bras do not cause breast cancer. The study of breast cancer and cancers in general is extremely challenging, and no one can really point to one cause in particular for most forms of cancer. There are some clear risk factors for breast cancer that scientists have agreed on after years of studies, however. Contrary to the “facts” in chain letters that many people have read, the risks of things like bras, implants, and underarm deodorant have yet to be proven through scientific study.

The controversy was triggered in 1995 when two men published a study that they claimed proved a positive link between bras and breast cancer. Unfortunately, this study is a classic example of a very common problem in science: the tendency to link correlation with causation. The group of women in the study was too small to draw any meaningful conclusions, and the higher rates of breast cancer in women who used bras could have been attributed to a number of factors.

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The study looked a 4,700 American women in five major cities, and it was supplemented with a study of women in Fiji. The American women had higher cancer rates in general than women in Fiji, and the authors erroneously decided that this was because the American women were more likely to wear bras. Of course, women in Fiji are exempt from many risk factors for breast cancer; for example, white women are at the highest risk for breast cancer, especially when they live in urban areas with a wide range of environmental pollutants, exactly like the women in this study.

No single thing can be said to cause breast cancer, but some risk factors are gender, age, family history, genetic mutations, and race. Women who have children tend to be less likely to get it, and breast cancer has also been linked with hormone replacement therapy, alcohol abuse, high weight, and a poor exercise routine. Bras of all styles have not been linked with breast cancer in the hundreds of studies covering millions of women worldwide.

Many scientists believe that environmental toxins could be a significant factor in all sorts of cancer, including those of the breast. People who want to avoid cancers should try to live a healthy lifestyle, especially if they are at high risk. A medical professional can provide more information about any individual's risk for breast cancer, and he or she will be happy to discuss any concerns the person may have.

Although bras do not cause breast cancer, some women choose not to wear a bra for other reasons. If discomfort is the primary obstacle to wearing a bra, however, a woman may want to consider getting a professional fitting to ensure that she is wearing the right size. There are also a number of different strap styles, as well as wire-free bras for women who cannot tolerate underwire bras. Ultimately, the decision to wear a bra or not is up to the individual, but she should not let pseudoscientific claims scare her away from support garments.

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anon960290
Post 16

Sorry people, but within the WHO they already know that there is a definite link between bras and breast cancer, mainly through studies in the Third World amongst women who never or rarely wear bras. Very much like smoking, it's going to take another 30 years before the medical profession and the bra industry admit to the link. Please remember the bra industry is worth billions.

anon946489
Post 15

While I am not a cancer researcher, I am a mathematician, and part of my job is to teach students about proper experimental design, so that we can draw meaningful conclusions from the studies we perform.

None of the studies supposedly linking the wearing of bras to the risk of breast cancer were properly designed studies. While that doesn't mean the conclusions were necessarily wrong (a watch that runs too fast will still sometimes tell the correct time), it means their conclusions cannot be trusted.

So until I see properly designed and executed studies confirming the supposed link, I will keep wearing my bra, thank you. Going without is uncomfortable, and sometimes (like during exercise) truly painful, and can cause damage to the breast and supporting tissue. Going without support during high impact workouts is bad for your breasts, so don't let these badly designed studies scare you away from wearing your bra.

anon934337
Post 14

Not all women buy into the cultural norm of requiring the 'support' of a bra. And not all researchers and supporters of the truth are men!

Ladies, all you need to do is commit to being bra-free, and you will discover that the pain you think is so normal, will disappear once your breasts begin to heal and decongest. It takes a few days at least, many more months for the full effect of healing. Breasts don't need support. Your ligaments are weak, and your breasts are swollen.

Guess what? I'm a woman! My breasts are healthy and feel great, every day without a bra. I was a D cup, and stopped wearing bras when my doctor found a lump

. By the time I had my ultrasound and mammogram, the lump was gone! I experienced a week of soreness around my armpits, and afterwards the lump was gone! My breasts have healed, changed shape, lifted up and look 100 times better than the breasts of bra wearers! And I've had two kids!

"The researchers must be guys" -- what a pathetic attitude. Thanks to all men and women who work towards spreading the truth to save the lives of all women, regardless of their gender!

anon350147
Post 13

What really shows the thoughtlessness of the Geek response to this question is the first statement, "The short answer to this question is no, bras do not cause breast cancer." At the end of that same paragraph, it states, "risks of things like bras, implants, and underarm deodorant have yet to be proven through scientific study."

First, lack of proof does not lead to the conclusion that there is no link. Something can be true without the proof that it is. Conversely, you cannot say this is false without proof, either. If there were no scientific evidence, the most that could be said is this is unknown, or needs research, Concluding it is false is, well, a false conclusion, and

shows a bias.

Second, there is proof of the bra/cancer link. Singer and Grismaijer's study in "Dressed To Kill" is one study. That research has been recently verified by a Venezuelan medical team! In 2011 a study was published, in Spanish, confirming that bras are causing breast disease and cancer. It found that underwired and push-up bras are the most harmful, but any bra that leaves red marks or indentations may cause disease.

This is the third study, that supports the bra/cancer link, in addition to the Singer and Grismaiejr's! No study refutes the link.

The other two include a 1991 Harvard study (CC Hsieh, D Trichopoulos (1991). Breast size, handedness and breast cancer risk. European Journal of Cancer and Clinical Oncology 27(2):131-135.). This study found that, “Premenopausal women who do not wear bras had half the risk of breast cancer compared with bra users…”

A 2009 Chinese study (Zhang AQ, Xia JH, Wang Q, Li WP, Xu J, Chen ZY, Yang JM (2009). [Risk factors of breast cancer in women in Guangdong and the countermeasures]. In Chinese. Nan Fang Yi Ke Da Xue Xue Bao. 2009 Jul;29 (7):1451-3.) found that not sleeping in a bra was protective against breast cancer, lowering the risk 60 percent.

It is clear that the author of this Geek report did not read Dressed To Kill or any of these other studies. Too bad the Geek is so quick to dismiss this information, a typical knee-jerk reaction from a culture that is obsessed with breasts and bras.

GeorgiaMillr
Post 11

I'm so happy to read this material! I haven't worn a bra for decades, and I am over 59. Women have an eye-popping response when I tell them I'm not wearing a bra, because my breasts are so lifted. As mentioned, bras = artificial support which keeps the ligaments from doing their work and staying toned.

The cancer industry is enormous and needs us to wear bras for their business! Scientists know, from all that has been written and been said, that bras impair circulation (how could a scientist not know that?) They choose to ignore it. Talk about pseudo-science! They won't even study the issue.

There are lots of ways to disguise bralessness. But if you won't go there, please

, no wires, wear as light a bra as you can, and massage after you take off your bra. The time really has come to call the game on this ruse, as women worry and die because they want to look or feel sexy? We don't need these stiff, wired bras for that!
anon245787
Post 9

The author completely misquotes the research. There is a link and while I agree that "correlation does not imply causation", this correlative study was done specifically comparing the number of hours women wore their bra.

What they found was that the number of hours a bra is worn correlated with the rate of breast cancer. While other factors most certainly do play a role, the fact is that bras constrict and cut off the flow of lymph fluid, increase the body's core body temperature, and in one study, suppress the levels of melatonin. Check out the research.

anon159799
Post 8

So here’s your challenge. Find a cotton or silk camisole or T-shirt that you feel comfortable in, get rid of your bra, and give your breasts a month without being bound.

anon122621
Post 7

About the 1995 study: They aren't "two men," except in the generic sense. They are Sydney Ross Singer and his wife, Soma Grismaijer.

In the Fiji study, the Fijian women who had migrated to the cities (much as the Maori women who migrated to the cities in New Zealand) and took up bra-wearing began to suffer increasing rates of breast cancer as compared to their ethnic sisters who remained in the rural places.

It is not the bra itself that is actually suspected of inflicting cancer; it is the carcinogens that build up in the breasts due to the restriction of lymph fluid drainage by the bra that is suspected.

In the blood, the clear yellowish part is "plasma." In

the spaces between the cells, the interstices, it is called "interstitial fluid." In the lymph system it is called "lymphatic fluid" or just "lymph." When it drains back into the veins at the base of the neck it is once again "plasma."

Human women cannot be used as lab animals in 40+ year duration studies, so it probably will never be determined for sure if breast-binding is connected to cancer. If it is ever proven that build-up of carcinogens is a causative factor in breast cancer, it will hint that maybe the bra is causing that build-up. Eh?

Animal studies are useless as no non-human female is possessed of breasts like those of humans.

anon36272
Post 6

hi... i'm 14 and i found a small lump between my breasts where the underwire has dug into... so do you think i have breast cancer?

i haven't been checked yet because i just found it this morning and i'm really scared. A lot of people are saying that underwired bras do cause cancer... i know this isn't really a debate like others are commenting... but i'm really scared! please help me!

Moderator's reply: Talk to your mom or another trusted adult. She can help you decide what you need to do.

anon35152
Post 5

Yeah, definitely I'm going to not wear a bra and look like a slob who doesn't give a damn how she looks. and it kind of *hurts* when they bounce... the reasearchers must be guys...

olittlewood
Post 2

hmmm...interesting discussion. it's hard to believe that bras cause all types of breast cancer. does it account for women who have the breast cancer "gene"? also, if american women are being compared to other "cultures" in the study who don't wear bras, maybe we are exposed to certain lifestyle choices and environmental factors that increase our risk of developing breast cancer while these other non-bra wearing cultures have lower incidence of it because of other reasons unrelated to bras? i guess until the study has been proven or disproved, i'll have to keep wearing my bra. or just maybe some smart person will have to invent the "cancer prevention" bra! there's gotta be a way to support those

things and still allow the drainage you spoke of. sydsinger, i'm assuming you're a man...in addition to being more comfortable wearing a bra, women have to deal with an overly sexualized culture who would probably misperceive a braless woman as dressing provocatively. i like my support and will probably continue to wear a bra until there is conclusive evidence otherwise.

however, i do appreciate the work you're doing, and thanks for bringing that study and information to our attention! keep up the good work!

sydsinger
Post 1

I am a breast cancer researcher and, Yes, bras do cause breast cancer!

A study by Harvard researchers, published in the European Journal of Cancer in 1991, found bra-free women had a lower rate of breast cancer than women who wear bras. And a major study done by husband and wife medical anthropologists Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer, documented in their book, Dressed To Kill (Avery/Penguin Putnam, 1995; ISCD Press, 2005) shows a major link between bra wearing and breast cancer. Research to disprove this link has not been done, with the medical/cancer industry trying to ignore the bra issue. And many people comment on this issue without having read the original research, and call

the link a myth and pseudoscience without having any scientific evidence to support their opposition to this vital information.

Why would bras be linked to breast disease and cancer? It has to do with the effect of bras on breast circulation, specifically the effect of bras on the lymphatic system.

It is the bloodstream’s job to deliver fresh, oxygenated fluid to the tissues and to remove carbon dioxide. It is the lymphatic system’s job to remove fluid, called lymph, from the tissue spaces, along with debris, viruses, cancer cells, bacteria, toxins, and other unwanted material.

The lymphatic system consists of microscopic vessels that originate in the tissue space and lead to larger, but still tiny, vessels that ultimately enter a lymph node. These nodes are bean-sized filters lined by white blood cells. Most of the breast’s lymph nodes are in the armpit. If the nodes detect a virus, cancer cell, or other foreign or hazardous substance in the tissue fluid, they begin an immune response of producing white blood cells to combat the problem. Once through the lymph node the fluid works its way through larger lymphatic vessels back to the heart and the bloodstream.

One important fact about the lymphatic system is that it is a passive drainage system. While the bloodstream delivers fluid under the pumping pressure of the heart, the lymphatic system has no pressure. Its flow is influenced by gravity, breathing, exercise and movement, and massage. And the slightest constriction or compression of the tissue can close the tiny lymphatic vessels down, inhibiting lymph flow and leading to fluid accumulation, cysts, pain, and tenderness. This fluid congestion within the tissue is called lymphedema.

Women who have fibrocystic breast disease essentially have lymphedema of the breast. Its cause, we discovered, is the impairment of lymphatic flow by pressure from the bra. Bras are elastic garments that exert constant pressure on the breast tissue. Their purpose is to push the breasts into a more fashionable shape. Yet, this pressure can cut down on flow within the lymphatic system, reducing its ability to remove fluid and toxins from the breast tissue.

The toxins that are within the breast tissue include some biochemical products of tissue edema, such as free radicals, which are known to cause cancer. In addition, there are also toxins in our air, food and water, including pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, and other products of our petrochemically polluted world. Many of these are known to cause cancer. We deliver these toxins to all our tissues each day through the bloodstream. It is the job of the lymphatics to remove these toxins. And it is this job that the bra inhibits by its compression and constriction of the breasts.

This is how bras cause breast cancer. Cancer causing toxins are delivered to the breast tissue by the bloodstream, and are kept there by the bra. The toxins are the bullets. The bra holds them in place, pointed directly at the breasts.

This explains why women have more cancer in the breast than elsewhere in their bodies. The breasts are the most clothing constricted of any organ. It also explains why women have more breast cancer than men, and why breast cancer is only a problem in cultures in which bras are worn. Where there are no bras, there is virtually no breast cancer.

The results of the 1991-93 Bra and Breast Cancer Study is discussed in the book Dressed To Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras (ISCD Press). The study was conducted on approximately 4700 U.S. women, about half of whom had breast cancer. When the results were analyzed, they revealed that women who wear bras over 12 hours daily have a dramatically increased risk of developing breast cancer compared to bra-free women. In fact, bra-free women have about the same chances of developing breast cancer as men have, and this is over 100 times less than that for women wearing bras 18-24 hours daily. When you consider that smoking increases the incidence of lung cancer 20-30 times, this makes the link between breast cancer and bras 4-5 times greater than the link between cigarettes and lung cancer!

Of course, the easiest way for a woman to determine if her own bra is damaging her breasts is to go without a bra for a while and feel the difference. You simply have to commit to being bra-free for one month. Your body will tell you the results.

For the thousands of women who have tried this, the results are spectacular. Having bound their breasts since puberty, the feeling of breast freedom sometimes may seem strange at first. But within days, the breasts have their chance to drain of congestion and excess fluid. Tenderness ends. Menstrual breast pain may disappear altogether. Cysts vanish. It’s like a miracle.

Interestingly, some women have become so conditioned to wearing a bra that they feel uncomfortable without one. That is because their breasts have become reliant on the bra for support, causing the loss of function of the musculature and ligaments that normally support the breasts. In other words, bras cause the breasts to be weak and droop. There are many large breasted women of all ages who have firm, healthy, trouble-free breasts because they have never worn a bra.

The congestion of the breasts by the bra also increases breast weight, since the breasts are essentially swollen by edema. This can cause the breasts to feel painful when the bra is removed.

Fortunately, once the bra is no longer worn, the breasts can decongest and can develop their tone again. Many women reported that their breasts lifted up within months of ending the bra habit.

So here’s your challenge. Find a cotton or silk camisole or T-shirt that you feel comfortable in, get rid of your bra, and give your breasts a month without being bound.

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