Wearing a Bra and Breast Cancer Risk

We women all know that a bra can be tight and uncomfortable. Have you ever wondered if wearing a tight-fitting band around your chest for hours at a stretch might have some negative side effects? There are those who are convinced that wearing a bra is not only unhealthy, but that it’s a contributing cause of breast cancer.

The thinking is that bras restrict lymph flow, which is your body’s way of getting rid of waste products and toxins. A buildup of toxins increases your risk of getting breast cancer later in life, according to self-described “health extremist” and blogger Lori Klein. She points to the higher rates of breast cancer in developed countries, where women are more likely to wear bras, and cites the work of medical anthropologists Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer. The central tenet of Singer and Grismaijer’s book Dressed to Kill is that there is a strong correlation between the number of hours a bra is worn daily and the incidence of breast cancer. According to the authors, women in Fiji who wore bras had the same rate of breast cancer as American women, but those who did not wear bras had no breast cancer. Klein sums up Singer and Grismaijer’s findings as follows: Wearing a bra 24 hours a day correlates to a 3 in 4 chance of developing breast cancer. Wearing a bra 12 hours a day, but not to bed, correlates to a 1 in 7 chance of developing breast cancer. Women who wear bras less than 12 hours a day had a 1 in 152 chance of developing breast cancer. Finally, women who rarely or never wore bras virtually never developed breast cancer.

As with most scientific topics, the medical community is rarely 100 percent in agreement. While some studies support a link between wearing a bra and developing breast cancer, a study in the September 2014 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention found no such correlation. This report evaluated more than 1,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer between the years 2000 and 2004, comparing them to 469 women without breast cancer. The study’s lead author, Dr. Laura Chen, described the risk as “similar no matter how many hours per day women wore bras, whether they wore an underwire or at what age they first began wearing a bra.”

With studies supporting both sides of the debate, this medical issue is ultimately left in our own hands to decipher. In my personal, not medical, opinion, I think wearing anything that cuts off circulation for long periods of time can contribute to health issues. That’s just my personal opinion, based on what I consider common sense. For the body to function optimally, there must be ease of movement and good circulation. Again, in my humble opinion, anything that restricts ease of movement or circulation can have a negative impact on health.

But my personal opinion is not really relevant for your life. What is relevant is what you think and feel. So read the studies, if you feel moved to, or just go with your instincts. There is no right or wrong. It’s about making the choices that will best support your health, and those choices will differ from person to person.

For Further Exploration:

Underwire Bras and Ill-fitting Bras Can Block Lymph Drainage and Potentially Contribute to Breast Cancer

This Article in Scientific American Believes the Breast Cancer / Bra Connection is a Myth

Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer, Authors of Dressed to Kill and Directors of Institute for the Study of Culturogenic Disease

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