Are bras bad for your breast health?

There are many articles on breast health and diet. One important issue overlooked concerns the bra we select and how we wear it. You might be surprised on how important a bra is to your breast health.

How we strive for beauty: Women are proud of their breasts. They go to great lengths, from breast augmentation to special bras, to achieve their idea of beautiful breasts. The problem is that this striving for beauty is not necessarily healthy. Many of these bras contain "stays" or "underwires" to push our breasts up for greatest visual appeal. These hard stays in the bra create red areas, irritated skin, and in some cases, gouge into our chest. This is especially true for big-breasted women. They can be painful. I never wore bras like that, for just that reason.

Research studies on bras and breast health: One study was published in 1991 at Harvard; the other study was authored by Singer and Grismaijer, who published their research findings in the National Library of Medicine. These two researchers then wrote a book, "Dressed to Kill," stating their findings in 1996. The book listed some sobering information on how bras affect our breast health.

Grismaijer and Singer's research conclusions are given below:

Women who wear their bras 24 hours a day had a risk factor of 3 out of 4 for developing breast cancer; women who wear their bra 12 hours but not to bed, had a one in seven risk; women who wear their bra less than 12 hours had a 1 in 152 risk; and women who wear their bra rarely had a 1 out of 168 for developing breast cancer. There was a 125-fold difference between women who wore their bra 24 hours to rarely.

The Harvard Study also found that women who did not wear a bra significantly reduced their risk for breast cancer.

Questions concerning these research findings: There is great debate over these studies because they did not take into consideration other lifestyle factors such as genetics, alcohol intake, smoking, and diet. There are many doctors who say that, even though your bra restriction is not good for your breasts, they question the breast cancer connection. There have not been recent studies to refute their conclusions. So the subject of wearing bras and breast health is highly debated. Doesn't logic tell you if your bra is creating a red, sore dent in the area under your breasts that should not be healthy?

Why should how long you wear your bra matter? It is explained by the authors that bras reduce lymphatic flow. When you walk and your breasts bounce, that action helps clear out lymphatic toxins. Lymphatic flow depends on movement. If your breasts are tightly restricted, they can't move. This obstructs lymphatic flow and restricts oxygen in the breast tissue. This reduced oxygen flow in the tissue may result in fibrosis breast tissue, which increases your risk for breast cancer. Some cancers are dependent on body temperature. Normally your breast tissue is cooler. Restricting your breasts causes the breast tissue to warm up. Your hormone balance is dependent on many factors, including temperature. Again these conclusions are debated by other researchers.

Should you be concerned with all of these conflicting research studies? I think common sense is the proper approach. There is no reason to wear your bra to bed or when at home. It does not make sense to wear a bra that is causing a red, irritated dent under your breasts. Give your breasts a rest, and free them up for circulation when you can. This will help your breasts, no matter how the research comes out in the future. Improve lifestyle risk factors such as unhealthy eating, lack of exercise, smoking, and excessive alcohol that are known risk factors for developing beast cancer. The best program to prevent breast cancer is a comprehensive program that takes into account all aspects of your genetics, diet and lifestyle.


Sydney Ross Singer, Director, Institute for the Study of Culturogenic Disease, P.O. Box 1880, Pahoa, Hawaii 96778(808) 935-5563

Dressed To Kill: the Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras, Singer and Grismaijer , Avery/Penguin Putman, 1995, ISCD Press, 2005