Bras may be uncomfortable, but wearing one will not give a woman cancer. Recent research shows that wearing bras, particularly with underwires, is not likely to cause cancer, contrary to myths out there.
Research conducted in Seattle, Wash., shows no connection between cancer risk and bra wearing in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, which is published by the American Association for Cancer Research. Study author and researcher Lu Chen, from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, conducted interviews with 1,500 post-menopausal women. The group included over 1,000 women who were diagnosed with cancer and a control group of 469 who had no cancer.
The participants were asked every conceivable question about their bra-wearing history and preferences. This included questions about cup size, the average number of hours bras were worn each day, underwire use, and other details. Chen’s interviews showed that 75 percent of the women wore a bra for at least eight hours a day, but found that no correlation between bra usage and cancer.
Chen was not surprised by the results. She noted that the biological plausibility of a link between bras and breast cancer was really weak.”
However, Chen does note the limitations of her findings. For example, only one of the women interviewed in the study had never worn a bra. So there is no overall comparison data between women who do and do not wear bras.
For years, there were persistent myths out there suggesting a link between the undergarment and breast cancer. The myth rose out of the fact that breast cancer is more prevalent in developed countries, like the U.S., where a bra is a common garment, and less prevalent in areas there bras a not common. However, there are other documented reasons for this disparity, including genetics, diet and weight.
A 1991 study fueled the myth by finding that women who did not wear bras had a lower rate of beast cancer. That finding could be explained by other factors like weight. Thinner women typically have smaller breasts; those who smaller breasts are more likely to go braless.
Almost 20 years ago, a book added to the mythology of a bra-related issue. Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras claimed that women are far more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer if they don tight-fitting bras round the clock than women who never wear bras. The authors proposed that tight clothing, like bras, impede the lymphatic system. The lymph nodes around the breast flush waste from the body. The book proposes that bras can constrict the lymph nodes, which may lead to a build-up of carcinogenic materials. They note that people who develop fluid accumulation in the breast, then go without a bra for a month can reverse the issue. The authors, however, do not take into account other factors like smoking or diet, ill-fitting bras, or breast size.
The argument that ties bras to breast cancer does not account for the fact that breast cancer occurs in dogs (and cats) too. Just like in humans, genetic factors and exposure to cancer causing agents make a difference. Certain breeds of dogs, like springer spaniels, have a much higher incidence of cancer.
The bra came into existence a little more than 100 years ago. Corsets were the norm before than, but declined in usage during World War I. Over time, average band and cup sizes have increased, which reflects the growing obesity epidemic, which is a significant breast cancer risk factor. Bras may not be likely to cause cancer but the bra size should be a concern.
By Dyanne Weiss