Could bras be the missing link to breast cancer?

Every couple of days we read that some sort of chemical contributes to causing cancer , from shampoos to antiperspirants we’ve all heard about their risks and maybe even tried to avoid them but to hear that our clothes are trying to kill us, well it may be a little farfetched. This may seem as a joke and most of us won’t take it seriously but putting in mind that not too far ago many people thought that the idea of cigarettes causing lung cancer was funny, we might consider further investigation on the matter of whether bras cause breast cancer or not??!!!              

The short answer to this question is no, bras do not cause breast cancer.  It is known that no singular thing can be said to cause breast cancer or cancer in general. Unfortunately scientists have been able to reach the risk factors contributing to only 25% of the cancer cases which means that about 75% of the women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have not been exposed to the typical risk factors as familiar history and smoking. So there are still a lot of risk factors vague to us, so could be wearing a bra considered as the connecting link between these women???

This idea was first triggered by Singer and Grismaijer since 1995 they made a study involving 4,500 women in five cities across the U.S. about their bra wearing habits. The conclusion of their study was that the risk of getting breast cancer dramatically increased with bra-wearing over 12 hours per day. The results of their study can be summarized in the following:

  • Women who wore their bras 24 hours per day had a 3 out of 4 chance of developing breast cancer (in their study, n=2056 for the cancer group and n=2674 for the standard group).
  • Women who wore bras more than 12 hour per day but not to bed had a 1 out of 7 risk.
  • Women who wore their bras less than 12 hours per day had a 1 out of 152 risk.
  • Women who wore bras rarely or never had a 1 out of 168 chance of getting breast cancer.
  • The overall difference between 24 hour wearing and not at all was a 125-fold difference.

These results are very alarming but it must be mentioned that this is not a controlled study, as with any study for cancer, where all the conditions cannot be controlled, and the higher rates of breast cancer in women who used bras could have been attributed to a number of factors as the study did not take into account lifestyle factors .On the other hand these numbers should not be taken lightly and further more controlled studies are needed.

There are various explanations as to how bras can contribute to breast cancer. The most credible explanation is that bra wearing causes restriction of the lymphatic pathways and lymph nodes that are present in the armpits, under the breasts, and in between the breasts.  It is known that the function of the lymph is to carry out toxins and waste materials out of our body systems. So what will happen if this path is hindered??!!! Toxins may start to accumulate in the breast which can help the development of cancer or even benign fibrocystic lumps, cysts and pain.  So we can say that bras can cause a dysfunction in the bodies’ cleansing mechanism through which we 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, sometimes lumps found in the breast may be filled with lymph fluid that could not be washed out by the body.

Relatively bras also prevent the natural movement of the breast thereby also affecting lymphatic circulation. It is well known that in many tissues lymphatic circulation is highly dependent on movement. This can be noticed on long air plane flights where the legs and ankles begin to swell because lymphatic circulation goes to near zero. Thus wearing a bra may prevent normal lymphatic flow and may lead to anoxia (lower than normal oxygen content), which has been related to fibrosis, which has been linked to increased cancer risk.

It also should be noted that ill fitting, too tight bras, bras with underwire and wearing a bra to bed will contribute more to this problem.

The link between bras and breast cancer can also be attributed to temperature. It’s normal that wearing a bra may slightly increase the temperature of breast tissue than normal. Well it sounds a little bit unbelievable so what if temperature rises a bit! But since temperature can change hormonal function and breast cancer is known to be hormone dependant hence this could be a logical explanation too.

Further studies linked bra wearing to melatonin production. This study results state that wearing a bra decreased melatonin production. Melatonin is known for its powerful antioxidant action and that it promotes good sleep, fights aging, boosts immune system, and slows the growth of certain types of cancer, including breast cancer.

The most startling statistic found was that three out of four women who wore their daytime bras to sleep contracted breast cancer. So did one out seven women strapped into a bra more than 12 hours a day. Bra-free women have just a one in 168 chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer. The same as bra-free men. Medical researcher Syd Singer is of the opinion that women who want to avoid breast cancer should wear a bra for the shortest period of time possible — certainly for less than 12 hours daily and should avoid wearing them while going to sleep and at home.

80% of bra-wearers who experience lumps, cysts and tenderness will saw those symptoms vanish,within a month of getting rid of the bra.At the first frightening sign of a lump, women should take their bras off before they take their breasts off,which could help liberate your lymphatics immediately. He also advices on wearing proper fitting bras to avoid any risk of breast cancer such as using loose-fitting cotton bras. We should be able to slip two fingers under the shoulder-straps and side-panels. The higher the side-panels, the more severe the restriction of major lymph node. Massaging your breasts every time your bra is removed helps improve lymphatic circulation as well.

However according to The American Breast Cancer Society, wearing a bra, at day, night or both, will not give you breast cancer, although they have no scientific research to support their claim. In fact, there has not been any research to date that refutes the link between breast cancer and bras, and these organizations have shown no interest in pursuing this needed research. However, a Harvard study in 1991 did show bra-free women had a lower rate of breast cancer than bra wearing women. And a medical anthropological study published in 1995 suggested bras are the leading cause of breast cancer. The proposed method for bras causing breast cancer (the build up of “toxins” due to constriction) has been called impluasible by the American Cancer Society, although many health care practitioners find it highly plausible. In fact, cancer and lymphatic experts advise women not to wear tight bras because it can impair lymphatic drainage from the arms and chest and cause lymph edema.

Well who could have thought that wearing a bra may have all these effects on our bodies?? It’s very frightening that every 13 seconds a woman dies of breast cancer, it’s quite clear from this number that if the hope is really in being bra free, well then we should strongly cling to it. However these finding should not be taken as facts yet and it must be clear that in order to confidently start saying that all women should go bra free further research is needed.