Many people say that bras causing breast cancer is just a myth. It is true that bras do not cause breast per se, but ill-fitting, too tight bras can help cancer growth since they can prevent your body from excreting dangerous cancer-causing chemicals. And, as bra industry and even Oprah have noted, 80% of women wear the wrong-size bra.
The main reason why tight bras are bad for breast health is because they restrict the lymph flow in your breasts. There are numerous lymph pathways and lymph nodes in the armpits, under the breasts, and in between the breasts. Normally the lymph fluid washes out waste materials and other toxins away from the breasts, but bras (and especially push-up bras) inhibit this action, so toxins can start to accumulate in the breast, and that can help cancer to develop. In other words, bras inhibit the way our bodies normally cleanse themselves and get rid of cancer cells and toxins like PCBs, DDT, dioxin, benzene and other carcinogenic chemicals that cling to the body’s fatty tissues like breast.
In fact, if you find a lump in your breast, it may very well be filled with lymph fluid that was not able to move away from the breast tissue.
Bra wearing may also be connected to cancer in other ways. Wearing bras slightly increases the temperature of the breast tissue, and women who wear bras have higher levels of the hormone prolactin. Both of these may influence breast cancer formation.
Bras and Breast cancer
Singer and Grismaijer’s research
The first comprehensive study on this subject was done by medical researcher Sydney Singer and his wife Soma Grismaijer, triggered by Soma’s discovery of a lump in her breast while in the early stages of pregnancy. Terrified, the couple started researching the causes and risk factors of breast cancer, and found out that even diagnosing the lump (if it was cancer) carried a risk they didn’t want to take.
Soma stopped wearing bras, started doing regular breast massage and exercise, drinking only purified water, and taking some herbs and supplements. In two months, her lump was gone.
They noticed that the Maoris of New Zealand integrated into white culture have the same rate of breast cancer, while the marginalized aboriginals of Australia have practically no breast cancer. The same was true for “Westernized” Japanese, Fijians and other bra-converted cultures.
Singer and Grismaijer then studied 4,500 women in five cities across the U.S. about their bra wearing habits and later published their findings in a book “Dressed to Kill”. Though the study did not take into account other lifestyle factors, the results are too striking to be denied:
3 out of 4 women who wore their bras 24 hours per day developed breast cancer.
1 out of 7 women who wore bras more than 12 hour per day but not to bed developed breast cancer.
1 out of 152 women who wore their bras less than 12 hours per day got breast cancer.
1 out of 168 women who wore bras rarely or never acquired breast cancer.
So the difference between 24 hour wearing and not at all was 125-fold!
Singer and Grismaijer sent their results to the heads of the most prestigious cancer organizations and institutes of America. None responded.
The lymphatic system in the breast only develops fully during pregnancy and breastfeeding, so women who wear bras everyday and postpone having children, and those who do not breastfeed, could be at higher risk of breast cancer.
It is well known that the established risk factors for breast cancer only explain maybe 25% of the cancer cases. In other words, about 75% of the women who get breast cancer do not have any of the typically mentioned risk factors such as earlier history of breast cancer, smoking, or early menarche. Maybe wearing an ill-fitting bra (or even just any bra?) is a risk factor that could explain much of that ‘unknown’ variation!
Also it is well known from scientific research that women in western countries get more breast cancer than African women, for example. The difference in bra-wearing habits could easily explain this, too. Someone should take action and do more research!
Though studies along these lines are not numerous (probably because there is no money to be gained from asking women to not wear a bra), there are some which confirm the link between bra wearing and breast cancer, and also fibrocystic disease and breast cancer. In 1991 Hsieh & Trichopoulos studied breast size and left/right handedness as risk factors, and noted in the findings that premenopausal women who do not wear bras had less than half the risk of breast cancer compared with bra wearers. (Breast size, handedness and breast cancer risk. Eur J Cancer. 1991;27(2):131-5.)
In 2000, in a British study women were instructed to go bra-free for three months. Results:
“…women were interviewed and discussed the life-altering improvements in their breast health, such as being able to now pick up their children or hug their spouse without pain. A few highlights of the history of research on bras and breast disease by R.L. Reed.
“The result of this breast study has given me back my freedom. I can pick the children up whenever I want to. I can do anything and the breast pain has now for me gone more and more into the background. I’m not anxious about my breast lumps because the pain’s not there so you don’t have it constantly on your mind and worrying about it. I get on with life; I enjoy life more. I don’t have to have a constant pain all the time.” Rae Marsh in Bras, the Bare facts, A documentary by channel 4 UK, aired November 2000.
David Moth has conducted an experiment where he measured the actual pressure exerted by bras. He says, “The results suggest that the lightest possible bras will still exert pressures in excess of that found within the lymphatic vessels.”
Ladies, next time you take your bra off, look at yourself in the mirror. You might see red lines on the sides and/or underneath your breasts, and marks on your shoulders from the straps. This is not a good sign; the lymph flow might have been cut off. Push-up bras and those with underwire or high side panels have even more constricting effect on the lymphatic vessels. It’s time to buy a better fitting one. Also try to give to your breasts free time from bras every day – if possible at least 12 hours.
Most people think that the pressure from bras (or from other tight clothes) is not a health hazard. We do know clothing and the pressure it creates does matter in some other body parts – why not for breasts? A study that investigated the pressures exerted by two different types of bras (a conventional brassiere and a newly devised low skin-pressured brassiere) found that there was a difference, and concluded: “Our data indicate that the higher clothing pressures exerted by a conventional brassiere have a significant negative impact on the ANS (autonomic nervous system) activity”.
(Effects of clothing pressure caused by different types of brassieres on autonomic nervous system activity evaluated by heart rate variability power spectral analysis. J Physiol Anthropol Appl Human Sci. 2002 Jan;21(1):67-74.)
Another study found that wearing a bra decreased melatonin production and increased the core body temperature. Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant and hormone that promotes good sleep, fights aging, boosts immune system, and slows the growth of certain types of cancer, including breast cancer.
(The effects of skin pressure by clothing on circadian rhythms of core temperature and salivary melatonin. Chronobiol Int. 2000 Nov;17(6):783-93.)
BRAS and BREAST CANCER – Message to take home
All of this may sound far-fetched… your doctor may have never heard of it, but the evidence is there. Preventing breast cancer should be a very important matter for all of us. Drastically reducing the amount of time your breasts are bound in bras and being conscientious of only wearing well-fitting bras are easy steps to take that might save you a fortune in medical bills, and even your life!
(information from 007b.com – //www.007b.com/bras_breast_cancer.php)
Disclaimer: It is strongly recommended to consult your doctor for professional advice. Above mentioned information and recommendations are just general and should be adapted to each person according to personal health indicators and status.