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Does Underwire Cause Breast Cancer

Can Chemicals In The Environment Cause Breast Cancer

Q& A #67 Do underwire Bras cause breast cancer?

Theres no conclusive evidence that exposure to chemicals in the environment increases your risk of breast cancer.

Lots of studies have looked at the relationship between breast cancer and chemicals in the environment such as pesticides, traffic fumes and plastics, but theres no clear evidence of any links.

It can be very difficult to work out the effects of individual chemicals when we are exposed to low levels of thousands of chemicals during our lifetime.

Some studies have suggested that women who are exposed to chemicals in their jobs, for example in the manufacturing industry, may be at higher risk of breast cancer. But the evidence is weak and more research is needed. Employers are legally required to limit exposure to chemicals that may cause cancer.

Disproven Or Controversial Breast Cancer Risk Factors

There are some factors that research has shown are not linked to breast cancer. You may see information online or hear about these disproven or controversial risk factors, but it’s important to learn the facts.

For information on known and possible breast cancer risk factors, see:

Sleeping In A Bra Or Wearing It For Too Long

Our mothers have been pushing us hard not to wear a bra while sleeping, especially the underwired bras. According to our mothers and the popular myth, sleeping with the bra on restricts the pores from breathing. This restriction results in accumulation of sweat and builds-up toxins that are believed to be the hidden culprits of causing breast cancer. The same thinking goes for wearing a tight bra for too long. However, leading breast surgeons and cancer organizations have termed these myths as dubious. Though, they advise not to wear a bra that is too tight, as besides being uncomfortable, it can make you feel suffocated, thus causing breathing problems.

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Your Bra Could Be Killing You

The idea that wearing an underwired bra can cause breast cancer has been around since 1995, when Sydney Singer and Soma Grismaijer published their book Dressed to Kill, which claimed there was a link. The idea was revived last year when a practitioner of alternative medicine wrote an essay on Gwyneth Paltrows website, Goop. What these people have in common is that none of them is a cancer researcher or medical doctor.

Singer and Grismaijers study was not reviewed by medical experts and published in a respected journal, as is the norm for bona fide scientific discoveries. According to a version of their story now doing the rounds on Twitter, they interviewed more than 4,000American women and discovered that women who dont wear bras have a 1 in 168 chance of developing breast cancer, as opposed to a 3 in 4 chance for those who wear a bra 24 hours a day.

Their explanation is that underwired bras block circulation of lymphatic fluid, causing breasts to swell with toxins . It is unlikely, though, that that lymph fluidwould be trapped by an underwire, because it doesnt flow in that direction, and a properly fitting bra prevents breast ligaments from overstretching. Scientists have also criticised Dressed to Kill for not taking into account known risk factors for breast cancer, most notably obesity, which increases the likelihood a woman will wear a bra for longer periods.

Why Does The False Theory Of Bras Causing Breast Cancer Persist

Do Underwire Bras Cause Breast Cancer?

Its not clear why a theory that bras cause breast cancer, a theory that has been thoroughly disproven, persists. Perhaps it comes from the frustration of not knowing what causes the disease, coupled with a desire that the disease should come from the outside, from something a woman can control.

In any case, lets stop worrying about breast cancer being caused by wearing a bra!

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Can Underwire Bras Cause Pain

Its a very common problem: your breasts are feeling sore, achy or swollen, and you dont know why. This kind of pain affects up to a whopping 70 percent of women during their lifetime so rest assured youre definitely alone. Still, you may be scratching your head over the cause, and one of the first factors that women often blame is their underwire bras. The reality, though, is that there are an array of causes that could be responsible your discomfort.

So, can underwire bras cause pain? Before you blame your undergarments, read on.

Can Wearing An Underwire Bra Cause Breast Cancer

The claim that bra-wearing can put women at serious risk for breast cancer has been around for almost 20 years. Does this idea hold any truth? Dr. Laura Hutchins, a UAMS medical oncologist who specializes in breast cancer, says that there is not enough evidence to support this idea.

According to a Scientific American article this myth began with the publication of a book in the mid-90s, that claimed that women who wear tight-fitting bras with underwire have a higher risk of developing breast cancer than those who do not. The authors suggest that bras can compress the lymphatic system of the breast, causing toxins to become trapped in the breast tissue to cause cancer.

The overall consensus among doctors is that neither the type of bra worn nor the tightness of undergarments has any connection to the risk of breast cancer.

Dr. Hutchins also commented that the belief that physical trauma to the breast, such as being hit or kicked, can also cause cancer.

Patients sometimes report previous trauma in the area of the breast where cancer develops at a later date, she says. So far, as can be determined, these occurrences are coincidental.

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How Is A Lump At The Bra Line Diagnosed

Breast lumps can occur anywhere on either breast. Theres no significance to a lump being on or under the left breast versus the right breast.

In some cases, a doctor can give you a diagnosis just by examining the lump. This may be true in the case of a lipoma, for example.

In many cases, additional tests are needed to make the diagnosis. Depending on your symptoms and physical examination, these may include:

Myth : Underwire Bras Cause Headaches

Do Underwire Bras Or Antiperspirants Cause Breast Cancer?

This is false although there is an explanation to this. While underwire bras do not directly cause headaches, it can be a result of wearing an ill-fitting bra. You do not need to give up wearing wired bras if you find them highly supportive. You just need to find the right fit so you can be relieved of the pain.

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So Is An Underwire Always Necessary

“As far as I am aware there has been little research done specifically on bralettes,” says Sanchez. “We have, however, tested several non-wired bras and these can be effective at supporting the breast if constructed well. There are many different materials and techniques used in the bra industry and from my experience, I feel it is no longer essential for a bra to have underwire to provide good support.”

Bralettes aren’t one size fits all. What works for one woman might not work for another, and sometimes that can lead to pain and problems with the breasts, she continues.

“Wearing no bra or a low-support bra can cause the skin to stretch beyond its elastic limit, leading to permanent deformation and premature sagging of the breast. There is also plenty of research to show that wearing low breast support leads to increased breast pain and reduced movement efficiency during exercise or physical activity.”

Body shape can make all the difference when it comes to buying a bra. “Some women with larger breasts may not get the support they need from a bralette,” explains Hughes. “They are likely to end up with neck ache or back ache because it’s not supportive enough.”

Im Still Not Convincedhow Do I Know These Breast Cancer Bra Rumors Arent True

  • The Evidence Isnt There: The rumors originate from only one study by husband and wife team Singer and Grismaijer. This research was never considered fit for peer review. It completely ignored other known risk factors for breast cancer plus the participants actually knew the predicted outcome of the investigation!
  • What About Men? Think about it: men can get breast cancer too and yet they dont wear bras. This surely wouldnt make sense if bra-wearing was a leading cause of breast cancer.
  • History Tells a Different Tale:Breast cancer has been around far longer than bras. As far back as 1600 BC the first mentions of cancerous breast tumorsA mass of cells that can be benign or malignant. in humans were described on the Edwin Smith Papyrus. Bras, on the other hand, only replaced the corset in the late 19th century and werent made in their current form until well into the 1930s.

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Can Wearing A Bra To Bed Increase Your Risk Of Breast Cancer

I wear a bra to bed, but have been told it can cause cancer. Is this true or not?”

There is no credible research showing a link between wearing, or not wearing, a bra and developing breast cancer. It has been claimed that underwire bras cause breast cancer by obstructing the lymph flow, however, there is no scientific evidence to support this theory. Wearing a bra to bed is an individual choice and you can choose to do so without worrying about an increased risk of cancer.

Myth: Wearing Antiperspirant Increases Your Risk Of Getting Breast Cancer

Underwire Bras And Cancer. MYTH: Underwire bras cause ...


The American Cancer Society pooh-poohs this rumor, but admits that more research is needed. One small study did stumble on traces of parabens in a tiny sample of breast cancer tumors. Parabens, used as preservatives in some antiperspirants, have weak estrogen-like properties, but the study in question made no cause-and-effect connection between parabens and breast cancer, nor did it conclusively identify the source of the parabens found in tumors.

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Does Not Wearing A Bra Cause Sagging

Not wearing a bra for weeks or months can only mean that your breasts have since booked a trip to Sag Harbor, right?


Dr. Blake says wearing a bra doesnt prevent your breasts from sagging and not wearing one doesnt cause your breasts to sag.

Wearing a bra doesnt affect the risk of breast sagging, or what is called breast ptosis. It also wont impact the shape of your breasts. However, if you are a larger cup size, you may feel more comfortable wearing a bra because it might help alleviate or prevent back pain, which is often due to the weight of your breasts. Wearing a sports bra could be helpful in that matter, says Dr. Blake.

Is It Ok To Wear Underwire If Youre Breastfeeding

Got a milk vampire on your hands? Many lactation consultants say it’s best to skip the underwire.

“My recommendation is not to wear a bra with underwire as they can put significant pressure on the milk ducts and cause plugging, which can lead to mastitis,” says Mary Lou Judas, IBCLC, registered nurse and lactation consultant at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. “This in turn can decrease milk supply.”

Mastitis can also cause pain, swelling, flu-like symptoms and possibly an infection, according to La Leche League International.

“Breasts change a lot as milk comes in, so often the wires or even tight elastic can shift and be on the breast tissue itself instead of supporting from behind,” Judas says. “There are many supportive bras available without wires, and fit is actually the most important thing.”

So do a self-check on your rack pack: “Raise your arms up and move them around to see if the bra is comfortable,” says registered nurse and lactation consultant Andrea Tran, IBCLC, founder of Breastfeeding Confidential. “Make sure it does not ride up, shift or put pressure on the breast tissue.”

While we’re at it, BF parents should also steer clear of wearing super snug sports bras, aside from during workouts. “If a bra constantly compresses breast tissue where there are milk-producing glands, that can destroy the milk-producing cells and diminish supply,” Tran says.

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Myth: Only Women With A Family History Of Breast Cancer Are At Risk

Reality: Roughly 70% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no identifiable risk factors for the disease. But the family-history risks are these: If a first-degree relative has had or has breast cancer, your risk of developing the disease approximately doubles. Having two first-degree relatives with the disease increases your risk even more.

The Source Of The Rumor That Underwires Cause Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Myths BUSTED! | Quint Fit

In 1995 , a medical anthropologist couple wrote a book called Dressed to Kill. Medical anthropologists study how our society and relationships affect our physical health. In the book, they claimed that tight-fitting bras trapped toxins in the breast, increasing the risk of breast cancer. They encouraged women, instead, to wear none.

For some reason, the ideas they laid out in their book seized the imagination of those who hoped for doable ways of preventing breast cancer. Unfortunately, the claims have little or no scientific backing.

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The Importance Of Study Design For Research On Abortion And Breast Cancer Risk

Some case-control studies have suggested abortion may be linked to an increased risk of breast cancer . However, the design of case-control studies makes the accuracy of their results questionable.

Case-control studies rely on the reporting of past behavior. When it comes to a sensitive subject like abortion, this can have a big impact on the information gathered.

The cases in these studies may be more likely to give complete information about their abortion history than the controls . The controls may not be as comfortable sharing this personal information as the women diagnosed with breast cancer who are interested in whether personal health history is related to breast cancer. Such differences in reporting can bias study results.

Prospective cohort studies are much more likely to give accurate results on topics such as abortion. These studies gather sensitive information before women are diagnosed with breast cancer. This helps limit biased reporting.

Cohort studies show abortion isnt linked to breast cancer risk .

Myth: Removing The Entire Breast Gives You A Better Chance Of Surviving Cancer Than Having A Lumpectomy With Radiation Therapy


Survival rates are about the same for women who have mastectomies and for women who choose the breast-conserving option of removing only part of the breast and following the surgery with radiation treatments. However, there are some casessuch as with extensive DCIS disease, the presence of BRCA gene mutations, or particularly large tumorswhen lumpectomy and radiation may not be an appropriate treatment option.

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How To Avoid Fungal Infections

Excess sweat, yeast or fungus can make wearing a bra quite uncomfortable. These things can lead to rashes, blisters, cracks, discoloration and irritation in general. Dr. Blake says much of this can be avoided if your breasts are correctly positioned in your bra.

You want to be mindful of how you position your breasts in a bra, particularly during warmer months. When you wear a larger cup size, skin rubbing can occur along the inframammary fold . If you experience rubbing with moisture, you can develop a fungal infection. You can prevent this by positioning your breasts in the bra so that it doesnt happen. You can also apply antiperspirant under and between your breasts to decrease perspiration.

As for other methods of preventing irritation, Dr. Blake suggests trying a wireless bra or applying cornstarch under your breasts to prevent moisture from forming. If you have any irritation or discoloration, it might clear up once the moisture issue is addressed.

Myth: Annual Mammograms Expose You To So Much Radiation That They Increase Your Risk Of Cancer

Can An Underwire Bra Increase The Risk Of Cancer?


While it’s true that radiation is used in mammography, the amount is so small that any associated risks are tiny when compared to the huge preventive benefits reaped from the test. Mammograms can detect lumps well before they can be felt or otherwise noticed, and the earlier that lumps are caught, the better one’s chances for survival. The American Cancer Society recommends that women age 40 and older receive a screening mammogram every one to two years.

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While Browsing Through A Bookstore I Came Across A Book That Claimed That Underwire Bras Can Cause Breast Cancer I Wear An Underwire Bra Am I Increasing My Risk Of Cancer

I searched the medical literature for studies on underwire bras and a possible link to cancer, and I did not find any. I also consulted with Dr. Hiram Cody III, an attending surgeon on the breast service at New Yorks Memorial Sloan-Kettering, one of the premier cancer treatment centers in the world. Dr. Cody, who says that he is frequently asked this question by his patients, confirms that there are absolutely no data to support the connection between the type of brought a woman wears and her risk of developing breast cancer. In Dr. Cody s own words, Cancer is a complicated process. Its probably absurd to think that a bra has anything to do with it.

As to whether underwire bras are dangerous in other ways, I would have to say that there is a remote possibility that a poorly fitted or a worn-out bra could cause problems. For example, if a bra is too tight, it could cause significant pain due to pressure on the ribs. In addition, if the underwire supporting the cup breaks through the fabric and cuts the skin, it could in rare circumstances result in an infection. My advice is to use your common sense. Do not wear a bra if it is too tight. If you wear an underwire bra, examine it carefully before each wearing. If the wire is beginning to poke through the fabric, retire the bra.


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