Researchers in United States debunk theory that wearing bras causes cancer

It seems almost preposterous that a study like this one had to be conducted. But apparently the belief that wearing a bra for long periods of time can cause breast cancer persists, and it turns out the issue hadn’t really been studied in a scientific fashion. Until now, there has been just one academic look at this myth, back in 1991, and it was quite limited.

But a new and rigorous examination of the issue concludes that “no aspect of bra wearing, including bra cup size, recency, average number of hours [per] day worn, wearing a bra with an underwire, or age at which a person first began regularly wearing a bra, was associated with risks of either [invasive ductal carcinoma] or [invasive lobular carcinoma] breast cancer.”

The study by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in the US city of Seattle was conducted because “we saw those rumours on the internet and we had the data to examine this in a scientific way”, said Lu Chen, a researcher at the facility who led the team.

It compared 1,044 post-menopausal women with the two types of cancer with 469 women who did not have the disease. The women were asked about their bra-wearing habits.

The reasoning behind the cancer myth is that a bra, particularly one with underwire, somehow blocks the flow of lymph to an area beneath the armpit where bacteria and other waste products would normally be cleared from around the breast. It’s not clear how it began, but many note a 1995 book,Dressed to Kill, which pointed out an association between lower breast cancer rates in societies where women don’t wear bras and higher rates in cultures where they do. The book did not examine other possible explanations.

“This is a common confusion,” Chen said. “They see two things happening at the same time and they think one causes the other.”