Can your bra give you cancer?

In recent years, there have been a number of studies into the danger factors of wearing bras – and even some concerns that they may cause breast cancer.

In 1995, Soma Grismaijer and Sydney Ross Singer, published a book which claimed that there was a link between wearing a tight-fitting, restrictive underwired bra and developing breast cancer. In the book, titled ‘Dressed To Kill’, the authors claim that:

The book suggests that women in the western world are more likely to develop breast cancer than those in the developing world, where women are less likely to wear bras.

A few years later, in the year 2000, a study was carried out by a British scientist, Professor Robert Mansell, which suggested a link between wearing a bra and experiencing breast pain and/or cysts. Professor Mansell’s research showed that 7% of the 100 women studied reported a reduction in breast pain within three months of stopping wearing a bra.

The Professor, however, was quick to quell reports that breast pain and cysts were linked to cancer, saying: “The study was concerned with breast pain. It did not look at breast cancer. I think the confusion has come about because one of the doctors interviewed for the programme suggested that breast pain may be linked to breast cancer. We have no scientific evidence that that is the case and I don’t think women have anything to be worried about.”

Most of the claims linking wearing a bra with developing breast cancer arise from concerns that wearing a tight-fitting or restrictive bra (particularly those with wires) can block the lymphatic system, meaning that toxins cannot drain from the body – instead gathering in the breast and causing cancer.

Most studies – along with doctors and breast cancer charities – have since showed that there is no reason to believe that wearing a wired bra can cause breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Care reassured women by saying: “The findings need to be treated with caution and not reported out of proportion since most women in the UK wear a bra and this could cause considerable alarm.”

Another charity, Breakthrough Breast Cancer, agreed with this, publishing a leaflet which advises: “wearing underwired bras does not increase your risk of breast cancer, despite some claims. Women need not be concerned about wearing any type of bra. A good-fitting bra provides support and prevents the ligaments in the bra from being overstretched. Women should be properly measured for their bras, which should be tried on to ensure a good fit. Bras that do not fit properly can cause discomfort or breast and back pain.”

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