Want to Prevent Breast Cancer? Burn Your Bra!

by Ann Marie Michaels on January 23, 2012

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Did you know that your bra can actually cause breast cancer? I had a dear friend pass away recently from breast cancer. She was my age. Since then, I’ve been reading a lot about breast cancer prevention.

It turns out the ladies burning their bras in the 1960s may have really been on to something. Read on…

Why Bras are Bad for You

Watch this video interview with Cheri-lynn Burk CCT, of the Las Vegas Thermography Clinic (where I’m booking my thermography appointment). I love what it says on her website: “Breast Cancer is a Big Business… Breast Health is a Big Mission!”

Burk says that bras restrict the lymph flow. She says the best thing we can do is go braless.

Of course, jumping on a rebounder or trampoline would also be really helpful as Cheri-lynn mentions, as rebounders stimulates lymph flow. (Just make sure you jump on it without your bra on.) I’m planning to buy a rebounder (and a trampoline for the back yard) this year.

Dressed to Kill

I also just started reading a fascinating book called Dressed To Kill: The Link between Breast Cancer and Bras.

I was very skeptical at first about this whole business. I mean, really, could a bra really cause breast cancer?

But I figured, what the heck, I’ll give the book a chance. It didn’t take long until I was hooked. I can’t say I’m absolutely convinced yet but I’m siding with the authors. They make a lot of points in the book that are hard to ignore.

And I’ll tell you what, I’m never going to wear my underwire bras again.

The authors conducted a study of almost 4600 women. Half of the women had breast cancer and half of did not. They found that the more hours per day that a bra is worn, the higher the rate of breast cancer. They also found that women who do not wear bras have a dramatically reduced rate of breast cancer.

Now, I’m sure people are going to complain about the way they conducted their research. I’ll cover that when I write the book review. As I said, I haven’t finished reading the book yet. But I will say that I think, for me, there is enough evidence (and not just the study they did) to make me stop wearing a bra.

Here is the summary of their research:

  • Women who wore their bras 24 hours per day had a 3 out of 4 chance of developing breast cancer (in their study, n=2056 for the cancer group and n=2674 for the standard group).
  • Women who wore bras more than 12 hour per day but not to bed had a 1 out of 7 risk.
  • Women who wore their bras less than 12 hours per day had a 1 out of 152 risk.
  • Women who wore bras rarely or never had a 1 out of 168 chance of getting breast cancer. The overall difference between 24 hour wearing and not at all was a 125-fold difference.

So the bottom line is, according to the authors, if you must wear a bra, try to put it on as late in the day as possible and get it off as early as you can. And never sleep in a bra.

I work at home. Most days I don’t put a bra on until 9 or 10 am. Sometimes noon or even later (I like to work in my pajamas). And I like to put my PJs back on again right after dinner — by 6 or 7 pm. HA!

Anyway, I’m going to write a whole review post when I finish the book — stay tuned.

Do Braless Breasts Sag Less?

I posted about this topic on my Facebook page. I was surprised to see that lots of women told me they always go braless.

Me? I’m not courageous enough (YET) to go braless. At least not out in public. At home, sure. But I can’t go to a business meeting without a bra.

Although I have read very compelling arguments from folks on Facebook attesting to the fact that going braless has actually made their breasts sag LESS. (Which is really making me wonder if maybe I should ditch all bras for good.)

Susun Weed also writes:

1991 Researchers in Japan pubished a study on bras and sagging, in which they proved that a bra can actually increase breast sagging, rather than the opposite. This effect was most noticeable in larger breasted women. They compared bras to foot binding in their discussion section. (“Breast Form Changes Resulting From A Certain Brassiere” Journal of Hum. Ergol.(Tokyo) 1990 Jun; 19(1):53-62. Ashizawa K, Sugane A, Gunji T Institute of Human Living Sciences, Otsuma Women’s University, Tokyo, Japan) — Source

Less Constricting Bra Options

A number of people on Facebook wrote to say that they wear camisoles with shelf bras or other types of soft, stretchy bras that are not as constricting as regular bras. One person on Facebook recommended the Coobie Bra.

GOSH I love that about you guys. I get SO many great books suggestions, tips and ideas from you all!

I read the glowing reviews about the Coobie and so I bought one, sight unseen. It came last week and I have to tell you, I LOVE my new Coobie bra! It is so comfortable! It doesn’t pinch or bind. It’s the closest thing to wearing nothing at all. But even better in my mind, because I can wear a t-shirt out in public and feel comfortable. Even if I weren’t worried about cancer, I would still wear this bra.

I love it so much that I will be throwing away all my other bras.

Actually, maybe I’ll burn them.

Stay tuned for the book review of Dressed To Kill: The Link between Breast Cancer and Bras. I’m going to be up tonight reading it!

How About You?

Do you think there’s any truth to this theory about bras causing breast cancer? Do you wear a bra? Or do you let “the girls” fly free?

Photo credit: Burn the bras on Flickr
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{ 233 comments… read them below or add one }

Phoenix February 7, 2012 at 7:26 PM

I go braless! Have for a year and a bit now!! I don’t have large breasts but they definately haven’t sagged. I feel a lot more comfortable in my body and they dont feel like ‘things’ stuck on my chest anymore. They feel like a part of me (which is natural). Only problem I have is that I don’t know what to replace the bra with that will prevent my nipples from showing to the public!! Hahahah in a light coloured shirt, even though I always wear a singlet underneath with a cotton chest support thing, they are always visible…..would be great if anyone knew of some good quality natural clothing that helps with this!

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D. February 8, 2012 at 7:31 AM

A lot of ladies at a forum where I used to go talked about Blue Canoe bras. I don’t personally know anything about that brand, but it wouldn’t hurt to see what they offer, I guess. These ladies were T-tappers (although I never was into that sort of thing) so I assume they provided support as well as comfort.

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Pamela February 10, 2012 at 7:57 PM

Ann Marie – what is the fabric content of the Coobie? I’m looking at the site tonight and so far can’t find info on that.

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laura h February 10, 2012 at 8:04 PM

I just tried the Coobie,plus and it didn’t work for me…the pads are strange and the straps are too thin.

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Jessica October 3, 2013 at 11:22 AM

Try the genie bra

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Tina February 11, 2012 at 1:22 PM

When I was a teenager my best friend had some lumps removed from her breast. Although they weren’t cancerous, the doctor told her the cause was the underwire bra she was wearing. Me, I haven’t worn an underwire bra since and I’ve always felt well supported.

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Bobbie January 4, 2013 at 3:27 PM

Would it be possible to find out the name and address (city) of the physician?

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melissa daams February 21, 2012 at 11:57 AM

when i was pregnant i found a wireless bra from a brand called Anita (made in Germany) and it was the most comfortable bra I ever owned. I’m wearing it right now actually, it’s now 3 years old! Still comfortable to boot.

My bra used to be the first thing I took off when I came home. Now I hardly notice that I have it on.

I’ll never where a wired bra again (but I lie, I still have some in my drawer, you know for those laundry days, when i have no others left… i’ve worn them, and within a few hours i’m very uncomfortable and itching to get it off)

maybe i should just throw them away!

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Ben August 29, 2012 at 10:19 PM

I am truly staggered by this article. I am sending a link to my sister as this could erxplain a lot of problems she is currently going through, and how to resolve her issues. A big thank you for the information on why she could be suffering.

B

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Roxanne February 25, 2013 at 3:46 PM

I do have large breasts. The kind that if I didn’t wear a bra in public, I’d look like I was sagging down to my knees. That said, I’m also a nudist, so I spend probably 90% of my time bra free. I only put a bra or any clothes on to go out in public. I am conflicted about this info because I have never worn underwires, so I can’t actually attest to whether or not they cause cancer. I can tell you that I don’t have breast but I DO sag! It’s gotten to the point that my hubby has commented on it. He described it quite graphically (oi!) to me recently how I’m sagging. Therefore I can attest that going braless -in my case – has not prevented sagging. In fact, I’m hoping to find a good corset to help keep them where I want them as I age. I have 44DDD’s so they are heavy and they hang. Soft bras do nothing but dig into my shoulders. My perfect option would be a bra that fully supported my breasts from the bottom up without the need for straps… like a corset. I do find the correlation between underwire bras and the increased risk of cancer interesting. Perhaps it’s actually something in the underwire? Or perhaps those women are also the type most likely to have a bad diet? I’d be interested to learn more :-)
Have a happy day,
Roxanne

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Gabriel February 25, 2013 at 3:53 PM

As I have not read the book I won’t start trying to argue that the authors were wrong. They may have some very legit points that warrant further consideration.

However, I do have some thoughts I would like to share.

First, do you know that women have been using various means of shaping/supporting their figures since at least Roman times? From pieces of rope tied under the breasts to leather thongs to corsets to bras, cultures throughout the world and time have used various means such as those listed to support/shape/accentuate their breasts. So bras really are not a new phenomenon, but the high rates of breast cancer do seem to be.

Secondly, I would really like to know what kind of women wore their bras 24/7 vs not at all. I have friends who are larger in the breast department and who cannot comfortably go without a bra during the day pretty much ever. I have friends who are much flatter who get away with barely ever wearing a bra. As it is known that women who are larger breasted tend to have a higher rate of breast cancer statistically, could this not influence the results that were found in the study? Just curious.

Finally, it is my understanding that many women wear bras that are poorly fitted to their shape and size and often wear bras that are more restrictive than they need to be. When I finally got measured by a pro for a bra it was incredible how much of a difference it made to wear a bra that actually fit me correctly. You really can’t just go into a store, grab a few bras, and walk out with the one you think works best because at the end of the day you may have a bra on that really does restrict you in unhealthy ways.

That being said, I’m not saying we shouldn’t reduce or eliminate bra wearing. I personally wear supportive camis when I am home and only end up putting on a bra a few times a week (if that) for when I’m dressing up a bit more and going out. I’m not the right size or shape to go without because I would feel immodest and uncomfortable. But that’s just me.

We live in a day in age when there are so many factors linked to breast cancer – deodorant, diet, exercise, chemicals, body care products, genetics, etc, that I would have a very hard time believing that bras could be such a huge cause, but then again I could be totally wrong.

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Vee February 25, 2013 at 7:22 PM

Very good points. Thank you :)

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Carma July 5, 2013 at 12:11 PM

Gabriel, those are all good points and I just thought I would mention that in the book, which I read several years ago, the authors are careful to point out that their surveys should not be considered conclusive research, but they strongly urge further studies based on their preliminary findings.

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Beth July 5, 2013 at 12:21 PM

I haven’t read the book or the articles about the study, so I also can’t comment on if it’s true or not. Given that women have been doing various methods of supporting the breasts for centuries and not having nearly as many issues as we do today, I find it uncommon that supporting the breasts causes cancer.

I’m much more inclined to think it’s the chemicals and artificial ingredients in the majority of anti-perspirants on the market today. I recently read an article about the use of anti-perspirants compared to the use of deodorant. The article was about anti-perspirants blocking perspiration and causing buildups of chemicals and toxins in the breast tissue near the armpit. The article discussed the benefits of deodorant to work on the odor instead of stopping the perspiring all together.

Added to the chemicals we are known for putting on the skin (the largest organ we have) we are also consuming more and more unknown chemicals in our diets these days.

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Electra October 3, 2013 at 7:39 PM

Just to note: other forms of supporting the breasts, from my own personal experience corsets, bodices, and older style non- underwire bras, do not have hard pointy ended things that dig in right around the base of the breasts. Underwires are a relitively new so there could be a point there but there are so many factors it’s hard to prove. I don’t wear a bra beacause at 32I it’s hard enough to find one that fits much less doesn’t hurt after a couple hours wear.

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bootgypsy February 25, 2013 at 4:08 PM

i am here to say that i have huge breasts, 36-38 DDD and there is NO way that i could go without a bra. Also my breasts are noticeably uneven without one, so that would add to the effect of bra-lessness . Maybe if i wore a corset all the time that supported them, but that would me more restricting I would think. ON top of that..it just HURTS to not support them!

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Bobbie February 25, 2013 at 4:14 PM

The problem with bras seems to be that they slow the elimination of waste products from the breasts. The longer waste products and various chemicals stay in the tissues the longer they have to do damage and to combine with other chemicals (both natural and industrial) to produce cancer causing compounds.
Other parts of the body can get along with restrictions such as belts because they have muscle, tendons and ligaments that move, which pushes the waste products and toxins on out through the lymph vessels eventually to the kidneys where they are filtered out and discharged in the urine.
Cancer of other parts of the body has long been linked to the presence of carcinogens in their tissues. Why scoffers would claim the breasts are the exception is beyond me.
A bra that supports the breasts but does not compress them, allowing them to move around on a shelf-like underpart that is supported by a corset or band, may be a good compromise for those who have large breasts that hurt if left unsupported.

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Cindy February 25, 2013 at 4:33 PM

Seems to me the women with really large breasts would be the ones wearing bras the longest, so it seems that that would skew the research.

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catz February 25, 2013 at 4:30 PM

there’s no way I could go bra-less. I nurse my babies into toddler age, so I’m always lactating. If I didn’t wear a nursing pad & a bra, I’d leak like a bad faucet all over my shirt. my clothes would be soaked constantly. I’m sure there’s a better solution than going hippie…..

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Linnea July 5, 2013 at 11:35 PM

Same here. I nurse my kids long-term and overlap when a new one is born, so I have been breastfeeding for 6 years straight now. At least breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer. I have to wear a bra 24/7 though.

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Claudia March 4, 2013 at 12:43 AM

Hm. If this applies mostly to underwire bras, why not be honest in your statistic citing and make mention of that beyond the one sentence that you *did* mention it in?

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Hollaina March 4, 2013 at 9:12 AM

I am not able to go bra-less since with my breast size, it would be overly noticeable. However, I do find myself more comfortable in bras that are able to support me comfortably and without the underwire. Something to research more…

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J March 7, 2013 at 12:36 PM

In the above post, you say to stay tuned for your book review. Where is that posted? I’ve read an overview of the research presented in the book, and I did not find it remotely compelling. In fact, I found it to be beyond sloppy, as well as hyperbolic and fear-based. However, I’m interested to see what you thought about the research methods after completing the whole book. By the way, it’s worth mentioning that the authors of this book also promote the idea that sleeping on a horizontal bed leads to Alzheimer’s and a spate of other degenerative disorders.

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B. Vermeulen September 24, 2013 at 7:51 PM

Books like this are indeed, based on nothing but fear mongering, sensationalism and poor research with a clear bias. Never mind the fact that Breast Cancer IS big business, a business that benefits from this type of irresponsible exchange of misinformation. The owner of this blog is doing a grave disservice to other women by spreading a message of ignorance. Cancer as a disease has existed for for as long as history has been recorded. Yes, women have been wearing supportive garments for nearly as long. However, fact based medical research shows that GENETICS and LIFESTYLE are the main factors in developing breast cancer, not underwired bras. If one does not wish to wear an underwire, there are plenty of non wired options available, but going completely braless, especially for women in the fuller cup range is not only absurd, but totally uncomfortable. A PROPERLY fit bra in the correct style will not do the breast any harm, and will in fact improve posture, alleviate neck pain and headaches. And yes, this means going to reputable bra boutique and being fit by a professional, not by going to some website. Yes, breasts that are unsupported sit lower and “sag” more. It’s basic physics. Lymph flow is not impeded by a properly fit bra. How do I know this? I have been a professional bra fitter for a decade, and I work with women post mastectomy as a prosthesis fitter. I would say that the majority of these women have had mothers and sisters with breast cancer, and would likely find this blog post insulting. You are entitled to your opinions, but be aware that you are doing your Sisters a grave disservice by spreading this kind of ignorance and nonsense.

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D. September 26, 2013 at 6:31 AM

I guess there will always be fools in this world. The above comment shows us one, for sure.

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Carla September 26, 2013 at 10:32 AM

So you’re saying a person is a “fool” if you don’t agree with them.

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D. September 27, 2013 at 7:25 AM

In this situation, yes, Carla. There is so much evidence out there to support NOT wearing bras or anything restrictive and yet people continue to question. The foolish part is that even if they know in their gut this article is right-on, they’ll argue the other way. It’s just the nature of some people to argue and that’s what B. was/is doing. It would be my guess she also believes in flu shots and vaccinations of all kinds. If “science” says so, it must be right? The trouble is the “science” is always very questionable. Hey, if you wanna believe B and wear a bra 24/7 go for it. Matters not to me. But just because another side to an issue is presented doesn’t make it wrong either. People are foolish NOT to look at all sides of something – especially in today’s world.

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Carla September 27, 2013 at 10:33 AM

Its not a matter of “believing B” (someone I don’t even know) or not believing B its knowing what battle is worth fighting, for and no reason to get personal here. Its interesting how we want to believe in science when we think it benefits us but throw it under the bus during other times. As someone who lives with two chronic illnesses, I am always questioning, researching and asking medical and naturopathic doctors the tough questions so please don’t pretend you know me.

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D. September 27, 2013 at 2:37 PM

I, too, have two chronic illnesses – Sjogren’s Syndrome which never looks like much more than dry eyes or dry mouth to someone doing “research” but I know it’s much, much more than that. I also have peripheral neuropathy which I know, without a doubt, came from a flu shot I received back in 2003 and I’ve suffered since late 2003 with neuropathic feet. I have both “diseases” or whatever you want to call them, under control as well as anyone could. So don’t talk to me as if I’m some ignoramous who doesn’t know one side of the stump from another. I tend to throw almost all science under the bus and that’s a fact. Most science is done for commerical reasons. I prefer to study native american ways, ethnobotany etc.

I wasn’t pretending to know you. Why would I do that? I really don’t care what you think about anything. Sorry but that’s just the way it is for me. I already know the battles I want to fight. The lines are drawn for me.

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Carla September 27, 2013 at 2:42 PM

You care enough to keep respond to me. :-) I really do wish you the best.

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Carla September 27, 2013 at 2:43 PM

I meant “responding”, not “respond”.

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Gauri May 8, 2013 at 2:32 PM

When you’re wearing the right fit, you don’t really notice your bra. It’s that comfortable. It feels just like any other item of clothing. It’s not constricting, but supporting.
It should improve posture. If your posture is better without the bra, you definitely are wearing the wrong size and/or model (like most women seem to be). I don’t care if you were “profesionally fitted”. Most places I’ve been fitted were completely wrong about my bra size.
There’s plenty of information about proper bra fitting on the internet these days. http://www.reddit.com/r/abrathatfits is a decent starting point.

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Ashley June 19, 2013 at 7:29 AM

I stumbled across this post and would love to hear an update. Did you ever post the book review? I was not able to find it? Do you still feel like not wearing a bra is better for you?

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Kara Maria Ananda July 5, 2013 at 4:00 PM

This is an important issue to raise awareness about! Glad more women are discussing this. There is so much evidence to support that the less one wears a bra the better. I recently wrote an article about this: http://karamariaananda.com/blog/2013/6/11/why-the-best-thing-about-a-bra-is-taking-it-off

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Laurel P October 3, 2013 at 8:48 AM

I used to wear bras all of the time. Then after I gave birth to my twins, I breast fed them and I kept getting breast infections. I finally quit wearing a bra and never had an infection again! Since then, (they are 14 years old now) I never wear a bra. I figured if a bra could cause a breast infection then they might could cause something worse.

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Bianca James October 3, 2013 at 10:02 PM

I wear a 40H bra so I don’t think I can get away without a bra outside the house, though I never wear it at home. There are a lot of bloggers obsessed with support- I’d personally rather jiggle a bit and be comfortable than strapped- in- it just feels unnatural. I won’t be jumping braless on a trampoline anytime soon, though.

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Shiloh BethEl January 4, 2014 at 8:35 PM

First…given the synthetic plactics/ foams involved in most bras ( likely a toxic cancer contributor) DON’T BURN THEM ! Yikes!!! Toxic fumes. Lol
Second , yeah I would think that other contributing factors like that of the braless examples, many were likely more organic natural living women as well.

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