Debunking the Myth: Truth about Bras and Breast Cancer

Pink ribbon emblem and white women's bra lie in the center on a blue background, close-up side view. Concept for world cancer day, breast cancer.

It simply cannot be avoided that some myths behind breast cancer will still flourish because of misconceptions being spread online. Even if a quick Google search will lead you to credible resources regarding breast cancer, there are those who wish to push their own agenda by disseminating  incorrect information. While there is nothing wrong with going braless, the personal choice of doing so should not misinform those who made their informed choice of wearing bras which are known to have benefits for one’s body. 

Why The Myth?

Back in 1995, there was a book entitled “Dressed To Kill” by Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer. The authors claimed that wearing a bra for more than 12 hours a day increases the risk of developing breast cancer compared to those who wore bras less frequently or none at all. They blamed the build up of toxins in the lymphatic system due to the restriction caused by the bras. After many years of published research and methodologically-correct data gathering, it was proven to be an incorrect claim. 

Separating The Truth from Assumption

One of the problems behind the Singer and Grismaijer claim is that it does not factor in several aspects surrounding breast cancer. Research has shown factors such as age, genetics, nutrition, and breast density are considered for breast cancer risk. Now imagine gathering several women who already have higher possibility of breast cancer just by those risks alone and then claiming they developed breast cancer just because they wore bras. The assumption without consideration was flawed and until today is called out by the National Cancer Institute in the US and even the American Cancer Society. 

Do Bras Cause Lymphatic Blockage Though?

Definitely not! There has been no scientific evidence that shows that bras cause blocking of lymphatic flow. The lymphatic system is capable of effectively removing waste products with or without bra wearing. There might be some swelling in the area where the bra tightly constricts around the breast but this is also what happens if any part of your skin is constricted. If there is soreness and swelling this is not due to the simple wearing of the bra. This problem is due to incorrect bra sizing and can easily be remedied by wearing the right size or getting a custom-fitting done if you have asymmetrically-sized breasts. 

Caucasian woman doing palpation of her breast for prevention breast cancer. Self-checking medicine for female. World cancer day

Breast Cancer Also Occur Outside Bra Coverage Area

Another important note about breast cancer is that it does not just grow over the area where the bra is in contact with the breast. This is why the assumption of bras causing breast cancer just does not make sense if the breast cancer formation occurs at areas where perceived “lymphatic block” happens. 

So What Actually Causes Cancer?

The actual risk of breast cancer is found in the factors such as age, family history, physical state of the individual, and lifestyle choices. 

If your family has a history of breast cancer (even if it’s from a few generations back), it is advisable to have a mammogram when you start to close in on the age of high risk for breast cancer. You can get the scan as early as 45 years old but is usually advisable for women 50 years old and up. However, it is always good to know how to do breast self-examination as a regular habit. 

Lifestyle choices could include your alcohol consumption. Alcohol consumption has been linked to breast cancer risk up to 30-50% for someone who drinks daily. By choosing a sober lifestyle you can greatly reduce the risk. For mothers, breastfeeding also greatly reduces the risk of cancer. It is advisable not to skip breastfeeding. This is why, more than just being the natural way of things, breastfeeding is encouraged as a healthy preventive measure. 

Obesity is another known risk factor for breast cancer. Not only is it a risk-factor for this particular cancer, but it is also connected to other forms of cancer which is why having a healthy body is not just an aesthetic choice but an investment in health for the long run. 

Women’s Role In Information Dissemination

Now that you have read some basic information behind this myth, we hope you can help women all over the world learn about the truth. Breast cancer affects several women worldwide but we should not let fear dictate our decisions. Proper education can save a woman’s life and also prevent the assumption of ridiculous myths.

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