Unfortunately, there is lots of money in selling bras and in detecting and treating breast cancer. As a result, there is lots of misinformation about this issue, with some affected industries calling the bra-cancer link a "myth". Despite showing the American Cancer Society and other cancer organizations the scientific evidence, they refuse to admit that bras may be causing cancer. Worse, they are lying about the link, and have even funded a study to try disproving the link. Here are some of their lies.
1. From Breastcancer.org "Underwire bras do not cause breast cancer. Only one scientific study has looked at the link between wearing a bra and breast cancer. There was no real difference in risk between women who wore a bra and women who didn't wear a bra."
Fact: There is no such study, and no reference is given to support the claim. The study they may be referring to is the Hutchinson study (see below), but this study did not include any bra-free women for comparison, making it flawed. This lie from breastcancer.org says there were bra-free women in the study. They tried hiding the study's flaw.
2. From the American Cancer Society "There are no scientifically valid studies that show wearing bras of any type causes breast cancer."
Fact: There are numerous studies. See references. The ACS refuses to call for more research, and refuses to admit there are supportive studies.
3. From the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center “Our study found no evidence that wearing a bra increases a woman’s risk for breast cancer,” said Lu Chen, a researcher in the Public Health Sciences Division at Fred Hutch. “The risk was similar no matter how many hours per day women wore a bra, whether they wore a bra with underwire, or at what age they began wearing a bra.”
Fact: This is the only study that did not find a bra-cancer link. The study did not include any bra-free women, and only included bra-using women over 55 years of age. That means there was no control group of bra-free women for comparison. You cannot come to a conclusion of the impacts of bra usage without a bra-free control. This flaw was mentioned by the study's authors in their study text, but not in the press release above. The exclusion of women under 55 also limits the scope of the study. Essentially, this is a useless study that is more propaganda than anything.
4. From the American Cancer Society "Because of the attention this book generated, ACS scientists Ted Gansler, M.D. and Ahemdin Jemal, Ph.D. conducted a small study in 2009 published in the Breast Cancer Journal (subscription required) to explore the biological mechanism behind the carcinogenic bra hypothesis. They looked at survivors of shoulder or upper extremity melanoma. Many patients with this cancer have their underarm lymph nodes removed surgically, which substantially impedes lymphatic drainage from the breast. If lymphatic obstruction caused breast cancer, one would expect those who got the surgery to have higher rates of breast cancer. Their analysis found no increase in breast cancer among those who had surgery to remove the lymph nodes. The authors caution that their study was preliminary, but concluded the “results do not support the hypothesis of lymphatic disruption being a breast cancer risk factor.”"
Fact: This "study" was actually a letter to the editor in the ACS's Breast Journal, so it was not a peer reviewed study. The text does reveal that they did find that there was a significant 700% increase in skin cancer in women who had had lymph node dissection, which supports the model that impaired lymphatic drainage leads to cancer. In addition, their sampling was too small to come up with a significant conclusion about the breast cancer link. And they looked for breast cancer within 5 years or so of the lymph node surgery. This is not a good model for breast cancer caused by chronic constriction from bras, which may take decades to develop into cancer.
Why are the ACS, Komen Foundation, and breastcancer.org (some websites’ referenced source) misinforming the public about this issue? It’s because bras are big money, and so is breast cancer detection and treatment.
According to a conversation we had with David Sampson, ACS director of communications, this issue will take lots of studies before they will support it, since there will be lots of upset people if bras are shown to cause cancer.
This is also why it took 30 years and 7000 studies before the US Surgeon General announced the tobacco-cancer link. Culture-caused diseases are resisted by affected industries.
Unfortunately, the cancer "authorities" have taken the position that this issue should not get any further consideration, instead of calling for more research. We believe this is because breast cancer studies to date that have been ignoring bra usage in their study design are flawed. That’s like studying lung cancer and ignoring if the subjects smoke. This challenges expert opinion that has denied a bra-cancer link, and puts into question the value of past research. And since the ACS and Komen have taken a position calling this link a myth, how will they explain to women that they have been wrong these past 25 years that they have been resisting and suppressing this information?
Millions of women could have been spared this disease had the ACS and other authorities taken a more interested approach in researching this issue.
There is also a conflict of interest between the prevention of a disease and the early detection and treatment of disease. Preventing breast cancer by eliminating breast constriction from tight garments does not serve the current detect and treat medical model. And asking women to consider their bra usage is a difficult job, as we have discovered over the past 25 years. Medicine is not in the business of changing the culture, but in treating culture-caused disease.
The reason this issue has not been completely suppressed is because women who have stopped wearing bras as a result of this information and have discovered for themselves that their breast pain and cysts go away once the bra is no longer used. Breasts also lift and tone once the natural suspensory ligaments regain strength after years of artificial support. These women also say they can breathe easier without a tight band around the chest. And in the current #MeToo environment, women are asking themselves why they have to wear bras in the first place, and why artificially-shaped breasts are so important on women, but not on men.
Clearly, it can’t be healthy for a woman to constrict her breasts with bras for long hours daily, day after day, year after year, from puberty until death. Ignoring the bra when studying breast disease is like ignoring shoes when studying foot disease, or ignoring smoking when studying lung disease.