Can the bra cause breast cancer?

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Can the bra cause breast cancer?

The relationship between bra use and the risk of developing breast cancer has been hypothesized by two anthropologists and disseminated in a “self-published” book. A study of 1,000 women disproved this theory.

Two American anthropologists, Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer, published a book in 1995 entitled "Dressed to kill: The link between breast cancer and Bras". In this text, which immediately received a great deal of coverage in the media and later on the Internet, the authors argued that wearing a bra, particularly the more constricting models or those reinforced with underwire, increased the risk of developing breast cancer. Among the hypotheses to justify the role of the bra in the development of the tumor, it was hypothesized by these NON-medical authors (anthropologists study human behavior from a general and cultural point of view), that the bra could obstruct the drainage at the level of the breast. and that this in turn would affect tumor development. They also argued that breast cancer is a problem typical of cultures in which the use of the bra is widespread, while it would be almost absent in populations accustomed to going around to the naked breast, for example in the Australian Maori population. The hypothesized mechanism (ie the stagnation of lymphatic fluid) is not reflected in the physiology of the breast.The lymph of the breast is in fact drained at the level of the lymph nodes of the arm, which are not compressed by the bra, while there are no drainage ways at the level of the fold under the breast.
Additionally, a study published in 2014 looked at around 1,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer between 2000 and 2004, comparing them to around 500 healthy women, between the ages of 55 and 74. The researchers collected information on bra size, model, presence or absence of underwire or rigid supports, the average number of hours and age of onset of use of this garment in all people recruited. The results were compared with other important parameters such as family history of breast cancer, use of hormones for contraception or for menopausal therapy. While bra use does not appear to be correlated in any way with the disease, other factors already known, how familiarity or the use of hormones prove to be relevant in favoring the development of this type of tumor. There is therefore no evidence of direct correlation between the onset of breast cancer and the habits related to the use of the bra.
However, there are some precautions that remain valid: the bra, if particularly tight and worn for many hours during the day, or even at night, can cause lymph stasis with consequent soreness of the breasts and axillary cables. It is also important to remember that following good habits such as a low-calorie diet with low consumption of carbohydrates and animal derivatives and regular physical activity can prevent the onset of this tumor. Furthermore, it must be remembered that among the main risk factors, in addition to familiarity, there are alcohol consumption, obesity, metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance. In all these cases it is particularly important to undergo regular breast checks and adopt a healthy lifestyle.

1. Italian Association for Cancer Research (AIRC). Can wearing a bra increase the risk of breast cancer?

2. Chen L, Malone KE, Li CI. Bra Wearing Not Associated with Breast Cancer Risk: A Population-Based Case – Control Study.Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, 2014; 23: 2181-2185

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