The notion that wearing a bra causes breast cancer has been floating around the Internet for years, causing unwarranted alarm among women. It is simply not true. There isn’t any proof that wearing bras increases risk of breast cancer. As a matter of fact, a new study found no evidence demonstrating an association between wearing a bra and breast cancer in postmenopausal women.
The investigators, from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, interviewed 454 women with invasive ductal carcinoma and 590 women with invasive lobular carcinoma, the two most common subtypes of the disease. They also interviewed 469 women who did not have breast cancer and who served as controls.
The researchers asked the women about the age at which they began wearing a bra, whether they wore bras with underwires, their bra cup and band size, the number of hours a day and days per week that they wore bras and whether their bra-wearing patterns had changed at different times during their lives.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), the idea that bras can cause breast cancer comes from a book published in the 1990s called Dressed to Kill by a husband-and-wife team of medical anthropologists who suggested that bras compress the breasts’ lymphatic system, resulting in an accumulation of cancer-causing toxins. The ACS notes on its website that the study purporting to establish this link “was not conducted according to standard principles of epidemiological research” and did not take into consideration other variables including the known risks for breast cancer. What’s more, the idea that bras lead to blocked lymphatic vessels and accumulation of toxins “is inconsistent with scientific concepts of breast physiology and pathology,” the ACS explains.
Bottom line: women do not have to worry that wearing a bra can lead to breast cancer. It doesn’t.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Lu Chen, Kathleen E. Malone, and Christopher I. Li. “Bra Wearing Not Associated with Breast Cancer Risk: A Population-Based Case–Control Study.” Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, September 2014 DOI: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-14-041
C.C. Hsieh, D. Trichopoulos. “Breast size, handedness and breast cancer risk.” European Journal of Cancer. 1991;27(2):131-5.