Throughout the day, many women fantasize about what they are going to do as soon as they get home. They are going to reach their hands up and under their shirts, and grab onto their… bra clasps! They are going to rip their bras off and release their breasts so they are unrestricted and able to move around, to jiggle and wiggle freely. This is such an amazing feeling of freedom, but it kind of makes me wonder, if bras are so uncomfortable, why do so many women wear them so often? Is this feeling of discomfort a warning sign from our bodies that we have been ignoring?
According to the American Cancer Society, there is absolutely no evidence that wearing a bra can lead to breast cancer. No studies exist which show such a link, they argue, yet they themselves have made no effort to disprove the theory, either. However, several studies have been conducted which indeed show a correlation between wearing bras and the development of breast cancer.
Historically speaking, this attitude isn’t surprising. In the 1930s there was “no link” between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. In fact, doctors were still promoting cigarette smoking in the 1950s. It wasn’t until 1964 that the American Cancer Society finally admitted that there was a direct link between them. Of course, if they had established the link to cigarettes and cancer sooner, a pretty staggering amount of money would have been lost in cigarette sales — and cancer treatments. Perhaps someday in the future, this will be the story of the bra, and people will say, “I can’t believe they didn’t realize that wearing bras contributed to breast cancer!”
Right now, we do not know for sure that wearing bras causes cancer, but at least we can look at some of the evidence, and from there make an informed decision for ourselves.
Evidence to Support The Claim
Wearing a bra can restrict and compress the extremely thin lymphatic vessels, which can lead to a buildup of toxic fluid that would otherwise be drained through this system. When these vessels are closed, less oxygen and nutrients are able to be delivered to the cells, and toxic waste materials are not being flushed away. Is it possible that this buildup of toxins is linked to fibrocystic cysts? Fibrocystic cysts are fluid-filled sacks that can appear as hard lumps in the breasts, and medical research connects these cysts with increased risk of breast cancer.
A study conducted by Syd and Soma Singer in May 1991 interviewed 4,000 women across five major U.S. cities. All the women studied were of Caucasian descent and mostly of “medium income,” and their ages ranged from 30 to 79. Almost half had been diagnosed with breast cancer. The majority of the women interviewed said that they were unhappy with the shape and size of their breasts and wore a bra solely to improve their appearance. Three out of four of these women who wore their bras to sleep contracted breast cancer, and one in seven women who wore their bras for more than 12 hours a day did too. Yet, of the women who did not wear a bra, just 1 in 168 women contracted breast cancer — the same breast cancer rate for men, who also do not typically wear bras.
Keeping this in mind, what can you do to potentially minimize your risk of developing breast cancer?
Minimize Your Risk
For me personally, on a day-to-day basis I do not wear a bra. I haven’t for about four years now. However, I will wear one for certain occasions and depending on what I am wearing, but this is very minimal. Up until about a year ago I had no idea of this potential link to breast cancer, but I stopped wearing one for the mere fact that it was extremely uncomfortable. I know a lot of women with big breasts are thinking that this just isn’t possible for them, but did you know that when you wear a bra all the time you are actually weakening the ligaments of the breasts? If you keep your breasts free of support for a period of time, these ligaments will grow stronger and then your breasts will better support themselves on their own.
A French study done by Professor Jean-Denis Roullion used calipers to measure changes in the breasts of 330 women over a 15-year period. He found that bras didn’t do anything that they were purported to do, including alleviating back pain, and in fact intensified it instead. They also didn’t do anything to prevent breast tissue from sagging.
As a result, he argues the bra is a “false need.” His findings suggest that breasts would gain more tone and support themselves better if no bra were used because they limit the growth of supporting breast tissue, leaving the breast to wither and degrade more quickly. Further, the study found that women who took off their bras experienced an average of 7mm lift in their nipples from each year they didn’t wear a bra. An important thing to note, however, is that if you are over the age of 45, not wearing a bra would do very little, if anything, to lift the breasts.
I do think that a huge reason why women wear bras is because of what society tells us that our breasts should look like. If they are small, we should wear really padded pushup bras to make them look bigger, and if they are large, we should wear really tight bras to make them appear smaller and less saggy. There are plenty of women whose breasts are so small that they wear a bra for literally no practical reason, only to make it appear as if they had larger breasts. If only they knew the risk they were taking just to achieve that look. In society’s eye, all breasts should be completely round and perky, but let’s face it: For those women who still have natural breasts, this isn’t very likely. As of late, more and more people are adopting more natural habits and practices, so I truly believe that, before we know it, natural, shapely breasts will be back in style!
If you must wear a bra, consider buying ones that aren’t too tight and don’t have an underwire. Try to wear the bra for as short a time as possible, and give your breasts a good rub and massage after they’ve been released! By no means should you ever be sleeping in your bra. If you are worried about your nipples showing, maybe consider wearing a camisole under your shirt, but even if they do show, I promise: It’s not the end of the world.
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