No, an Underwire Bra Won't Give You Cancer (& 9 Other Breast Health Myths)
Y'all, from workplace inequality to being harassed in the street, being a woman is hectic, and we have plenty of real issues we battle on a daily basis — so we certainly don't have time to be worrying about female health myths that are totally bogus. For instance, we're constantly hearing things about our breasts, most of which aren't even true. Lame.
To help you and your breasts have a long, healthy and happy life together, I went to a bona fide boob expert, Dr. Neelima Denduluri, associate chair of the US Oncology Network Breast Cancer Research Committee, to help sort out fact from fiction.
Myth: Breastfeeding will ruin your boobs
Bust-ed: It won't, Denduluri says. Your breasts will change (a lot!) with pregnancy and when your milk comes in, whether or not you decide to breastfeed. As a bonus, Denduluri says that some studies have shown that breastfeeding may protect your breasts by reducing your risk of breast cancer.
Myth: Running, jumping rope or other high-impact exercises will damage your boobs
Bust-ed: Actually, aging is what ruins your boobs! Plus, there's never been any solid research that showed that exercising makes your breasts sag or injures them. Denduluri says that getting older is the main reason the shape and appearance of your breasts change. So basically, your boobs will be ruined no matter what you do. Kidding! The real message here is that it's normal for our boobs to change as we live our lives, and exercising is one of the top things we can do to make sure those lives are healthy ones.
Myth: You'll be able to see or feel if you have breast cancer
Bust-ed: This is why we give ourselves breast exams, right? Not necessarily, Denduluri says. "A breast mass is often not found by exam," she explains. "This is why mammography is very important." But self-exams aren't pointless. Denduluri says it's important to know what your breasts normally feel and look like so you can report any changes to your doc.
Myth: Women smaller than a C cup don't need to wear bras
Bust-ed: Nope! The only thing that determines whether you "need" a bra is whether or not you want to wear one. Larger ladies may feel more comfortable with more support, but some find bras constricting and say they actually cause neck, shoulder and back pain. Ultimately, there's no health reason to wear a bra. "Wearing a bra is a personal decision, and no cup size should limit a bra or require a bra," Denduluri says.
Myth: Underwire bras can give you cancer
Bust-ed: Where did this rumor even start? Every girl who's ever worn a bra has likely heard that bras cause cancer. The only thing bras and cancer have in common, Denduluri says, is that they're both linked with boobs. "Underwire bras are not associated with causing cancer," she says. "In fact, bras are not associated with causing cancer, irrespective of what kind."
Myth: Inverted nipples mean there's something wrong with you
Bust-ed: Some women have naturally inverted nipples, Denduluri says. So if your nipples have always been inverted, no worries. That is just how your breasts are shaped. But, she adds, if your nips suddenly turn themselves inside, it can be a sign of cancer, and you should call your doc, stat.
Myth: Gaining weight means bigger boobs
Bust-ed: I wish! "Some women gain weight in their breasts, and others are prone to distribute weight in other places, such as their abdomen, thighs," Denduluri says. "It is very individualized."
Myth: You can increase the size of your breasts with this special cream/tea/exercise
Bust-ed: Nope. No, not even that one. Not that one, either. It doesn't matter what the testimonials on the internet say (they're probably fake anyhow). Worse, many supplements have harmful ingredients that can make you sick, Denduluri says. Skip the quick fixes, and save your money.
Myth: You should sleep in a bra to prevent saggy boobs or a wrinkly chest
Bust-ed: Wearing a bra while standing or moving may help prevent some sagging or ptosis, as the pros call it. But wearing one lying down doesn't do a darn thing, Denduluri says. So sleep in a bra if it makes you more comfortable, but take it off if you're worried about cosmetics.
Originally posted March 2016. Updated October 2017.