Could Bra-Wearing 

Increase the Incidence of Breast Cancer?
and also Painful, Lumpy Breasts?

by Darrell J. Stoddard      Copyright 2000

       Cancer organizations may have overlooked one of the most important cancer discoveries of the last century.  The incidence of breast cancer for women in bra-wearing countries is 1 in 8 or 9 (based on a projection that all women will live to be 90 years old).  Much lower rates of breast cancer have been reported in non bra-wearing cultures. 
          Breast Cancer will strike an estimated 178,000 U.S. women this year, killing about 43,500.  If we knew all of the causes of breast cancer, we would know more about preventing this terrible disease. 
          Medical anthropologists, Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer, in a study involving 4,700 U.S. women found that women who wear a bra 24 hours a day had a cancer rate that was 125 times higher than women who don't wear a bra at all! 
          How long a woman wears a bra each day also makes a major difference.  "Women who wore bras for over 12 hours daily, but not to sleep, have a 21-fold greater chance of developing breast cancer than do women who remove their bras before twelve hours." 
          The theory of why bra-wearing may increase the incidence of breast cancer is the concept that a bra impairs the flow of lymphatics.  The blocked lymphatic vessels allow wastes and toxins to accumulate creating a toxic condition and cellular damage leading to the development of cancer. 
          Even if the exact mechanism is not known, the correlation between wearing a bra and breast cancer is 4 to 12 times greater in significance than the connection between smoking and lung cancer.  Reasons you may have never heard of this discovery are:  No one has anything to sell or will profit from women not wearing bras. It costs nothing to implement.  The discovery could upstage cancer research that is costing billions.  Experts who work for cancer causes are reluctant to accept such a simple solution.   The monumental medical discoveries of William Harvey, James Lind and Ignaz Semmelweis were rejected for decades and even for a lifetime. 
         In our day, traditional medicine rejected the discoveries of Oliver Sachs (Awakenings), Augusto and Michaela Odone (Lorenzo's Oil), and Gary and Victoria Beck (Parents of Autistic Child, featured on Dateline Oct. 7, 1998). 
         The harmful effects of X-rays, discovered in 1895, were hardly known 50 years later.  In the 1940's there were X- ray machines for fitting shoes in nearly all department stores.  The harmful effects of X-rays are still not fully realized 100 years later!  (Search www under "John W. Gofman, M.D., Ph.D." then see his vital and timely book Preventing Breast Cancer, which is complete on the web.) 
          It took the FDA more than 30 years to even acknowledge that a folic acid deficiency could cause birth defects. Thousands of deformed babies have been born because the FDA prohibited claims that pregnant women should take folic acid."  Now it is widely publicized. 
          Not only is the implementation of the Singer, Grismaijer study available to all women free of charge, but the research cost zero, zilch, nada, not one cent of your tax or donated dollars.  No one paid them to do the research.  The only monetary rewards Singer and Grismaijer will ever get is a royalty on their book, Dressed To Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras, a book I highly recommend. 
          It is infinitely more important to prevent breast cancer than try to cure it.  Thanks to Singer and Grismaijer, we know what could be the most important step women can take to prevent breast cancer. 
          In the news there have been stories of high risk women who did not have cancer that had double radical mastectomies (removal of both breasts) to prevent breast cancer!  "Not wearing a bra to prevent breast cancer" seems too simple, so it is hardly mentioned by the media and not even considered by many cancer experts. 
          In contrast, the media has been full of news releases from the National Cancer Institute about how Tamoxifen (which has dangerous side effects) can reduce the risk of breast cancer by up to one-half in certain women.  This compared to reducing risk 21 times by wearing a bra less than 12 hours a day, or reducing the risk much more than 21 times by not wearing a bra at all! 
         Tamoxifen doubles the risk of uterine cancer, triples the risk of potentially fatal blood clots, and increases the risk of developing cataracts in the eyes according to a report by the Food and Drug Administration.  Nevertheless, the F.D.A. has approved the use of Tamoxifen by high risk, healthy women to prevent breast cancer. 
         Going without a bra to prevent breast cancer will not be popular with all women but should a woman have her breasts removed or take tamoxifen instead? 
         Tamoxifen sales are 255  million dollars a year.  It is predicted that with the expanded market to prevent breast cancer in healthy women, tamoxifen sales could balloon to seven billion dollars a year in the U.S. alone!  It costs nothing to stop wearing a bra. 
         In response to the bra study, Good Housekeeping magazine  (which often has 3 full page color ads for tamoxifen) stated that, "Bras Don't Cause Breast Cancer" then adds, "most cancer specialists say the idea is so ludicrous it isn't even worth commenting on.  The theory that constriction from bras allows toxins to build up in the breasts' lymphatic system, which leads to unfounded."  "Even when a bra fits snugly, it doesn't interfere with the lymphatic drainage of the breast," explains breast cancer expert Gordon F. Schwartz, M.D.. 
        In contrast, there are many published studies to refute the claim that wearing a bra does not interfere with lymphatic drainage of the breast.  Michael Schacter, M.D. writes at: schacter/breast.d.htm  "Any activity which will help to remove accumulated toxins in the breasts will help to reduce the chances of developing breast cancer."  "It is the job of the lymphatic system of the body to help drain toxic substances from tissues and poor lymphatic drainage may play a role in breast cancer formation."  "(Lymph flow) is very sensitive to constricting external pressure which can impede its flow.  Bras and other external tight clothing can impede flow."  "So, the take home message to women is to wear bras as little as possible and when wearing them try to choose one that is least constricting." 
        Dr. Jesse Hanley, M.D. (in her book What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Premenopause, Warner Books, 1999) encourages her patients "not to wear underwire bras or even tight bras, except for special occasions because they block the lymph glands underneath the breast.  Lymph glands play an important role in draining toxins from the breast." 
        Another media story about the bra study said it was "ripped to pieces" by cancer experts because the study didn't factor in risk factors such as smoking, alcohol use, etc. 
        Scientific scepticism is wonderful but such criticism is groundless when there is no conceivable reason why women in the U.S. who don't wear bras would be non-smokers or non-drinkers and bra wearers would be smokers or alcohol users.  Reminds me of the endless defense by cigarette companies that cigarettes do not cause cancer. 
        The smoking/cancer connection was the most important cancer discovery of the last century but it took more than forty years to be widely accepted.  Nearly every magazine and newspaper published in the 1950's (except Reader's Digest) had full page ads stating that "More Doctors Smoke Camels than any other brand."  Until this decade, lawsuits against cigarette companies never made it to trial. 
         R.I. Reed, Ph.D., has compiled an excellent bibliography of published studies that present evidence for a possible bra-wearing breast cancer connection.  See:                  -   -   and 
         Dr. Reed also has found 30 references linking fibrocystic breast disease (benign lumps, cysts and pain) to increased cancer incidence.  He states, "Many women, and unfortunately many doctors, think that fibrocystic breast disease is a "normal" condition for women; some even say that it is not a disease." 
         There are doctors, however, who believe fibrocystic breasts are diseased.  Dr. Richard Santen, M.D., says at:   http// clinicqa.html  "If a (breast) duct becomes blocked it will fill up with fluid and it is very much like a balloon filled with water.  It is a round area filled with fluid that represents a blocked duct.  That's the cystic component of fibrocystic disease. The area around that blocked duct then has the tendency to form scar tissue and that's the fibrous component of the fibrocystic disease."  "Benign breast disease ....let's consider this as a medical problem and focus on trying to treat the patient rather than saying it's not cancer, let's forget about it." 
        A six year study of 1,374 women with palpable breast cysts was published in Lancet, May 1999. Sixty-five cancers developed which was significantly more then would have occurred in an equal number of women who did not have fibrocystic breasts.  The study concluded that for all cyst types, "Women with breast cysts are at an increased risk of breast cancer, especially at younger ages."  The relative risk was 5.94 times more for women under 45 years of age. 
        To this date, very few doctors and no public information on breast disease list benign lumpy breasts as a risk factor for breast cancer.  One of the reasons for not recognizing the risk is because a remedy is not generally known.  The bra study and recent research hopefully will change that. 
        Many women sent Dr. Reed their personal stories telling of dramatic relief from monthly breast pain and/or lumps achieved by not wearing a bra.  See seven of their histories at: 
        Singer and Grismaijer, and also Dr. Gregory Heigh of Florida have found that about 90% of women with fibro-cystic disease find improvement by not wearing a bra. 
        If going bra free will prevent lumpy, painful breasts and if such fibrocystic disease increases the risk of breast cancer, then going without a bra may prevent some (and possibly much) breast cancer. 
        Women who find a lump in their breast may delay medical care and try to eliminate the lump by not wearing a bra.  It is imperative not to so endanger your life!   This paper is about preventing breast cancer, not treating it.  Going bra free may reduce a benign cyst.  It will probably do nothing for an existing malignant tumor. 

         Note:   Women may believe that bra-wearing will prevent the development of "sagging breasts."  With or without a bra, sagging is an inevitable part of aging.  There are many studies, however, to show that ligaments (also muscle and bone) will atrophy if they do not move or bear weight.  Because the breast is supported by ligaments, wearing a bra may actually cause breast sagging.

Darrell Stoddard, Founder - Pain Research Institute 
266 East 3200 North, Provo, UT 84604  U.S.A. 

Phone: 801-377-3891
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