Bras and Breast Cancer

Controversial book still the subject of debate

Does wearing a bra increase a woman’s chance of getting breast cancer? Studies have been – and continue being – done around the globe comparing two groups of women: those who wear bras and those who do not.

In their book Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras, Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer reveal a link between bras and breast cancer. The book outlines in a non-technical language why constrictive bras inhibit the lymphatic system.

According to Singer and Grismaijer in their January 1996 study, the odds of getting breast cancer dramatically increased with bra-wearing for women who wear bras more than 12 hours per day. The authors concluded that the more movement breasts naturally have, the more blood flows to them, which enables proper functioning of the lymphatic system and leads to less buildup of carcinogenic compounds in the constricted areas.

The authors concluded that:

  • Women who wear their bras for 24 hours a day are at a 3 out of 4 chance of developing breast cancer.
  • Women who wore bras more than 12 hours per day, but did not wear them to bed, had a 1 in 7 chance.
  • Women who wore bras less than 12 hours per day had a 1 in 152 chance.
  • Women who rarely or never wore bras had a 1 in 186 chance of getting breast cancer. The overall difference between wearing them 24 hours a day and not at all was a 125-fold difference.

It seems that the less a bra is worn, the less chance a woman has of developing breast cancer because the breasts have more active blood flow and movement. Singer and Grismaijer recommend that all women should try going bra-free for two weeks so that they can see how they physically will feel different.

Despite the authors’ alarming conclusions, other studies have been done that dispute their findings. And one anonymous critic states that:

“There are no scientifically valid studies that show a correlation between wearing bras of any type and the occurrence of breast cancer. Two anthropologists made this association in a book called Dressed to Kill. Their study was not conducted according to standard principles of epidemiological research and did not take into consideration other variables, including known risk factors for breast cancer. There is no other credible research to validate this claim in any way.”

So who’s right? Without choosing sides, we believe all women should at least be aware of the potential link between excessive bra-wearing and their health.

It is vital that, when getting fitted for your bras, there is no excess pressure or uncomfortable areas where your breast tissue is being pressed or constricted by your bra in an unnatural way. Better to be safe than sorry, we think.