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Can wearing a bra cause breast cancer?

It’s been going around the rumor mill (for years) that wearing a bra, especially an underwire bra, has links to breast cancer. While many people believe this idea to be true, many scientists and research professionals alike have dispelled this notion as false and break it down to exactly what it is — a rumor!

Woman wearing bra in doctor's office

Underwire bras under fire for breast cancer

The concept that bras may cause breast cancer actually started with a 1995 book called Dressed to Kill by Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer. This book claimed that women who wear underwire bras for 12 hours a day have a higher risk of developing breast cancer than women who don’t wear bras.

The authors go on to explain that its caused by bras restricting the lymph system, which results in a build-up of toxins in the breast. Crazy, right? Yes, according to the American Cancer Society, which says there is no evidence of lymph node compression by bras. In reality, body fluid travels up to the lymph nodes, not to the underwire. Perhaps these authors didn’t study their anatomy very well, and suffice it to say that Singer and Grismaijer’s evidence isn’t quite factual.

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Dr. Susan Love's Breast BookThe uncertainty of breast cancer causes fear

Countering Singer and Grismaijer, Dr. Susan Love wrote in her Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book that the idea of cancer coming from bras actually originates from the human desire to explain areas of life in which we have a lot of uncertainty and fear. Simply put, people are looking for something to blame, therefore hoping that if they avoid wearing a bra they can avoid breast cancer.

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Real breast cancer risks

While breast cancer rates vary from region to region, there are many factors, including diet, exercise and lifestyle that are more plausible explanations for the development of breast cancer (all the more reason to get our butts to the gym and eat more veggies). In places where people have less access to medical care, breast cancer isn’t diagnosed as often or as early, even if it’s present, which can skew the statistical rates of breast cancer. Also, age and genetics are factors that affect the probability of developing breast cancer.

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Support your breasts and see your doctor

So you’re safe in continuing to wear your favorite bra. However, if you are worried about your risk of breast cancer, you should discuss your concerns with a health care professional and find out about ways to cut your risk. Knowing the real risk factors and making healthy lifestyle choices can help you reduce your risks — and going braless won’t!

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How to prepare for breast cancer surgery

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