There is often the view expressed that wearing a bra can increase one’s breast cancer risk – for this, there is an oft cited study of Singer and Grismaijer, who claimed that lymphatic flow of the breast was impaired or restricted by wearing bras, and hence that wearing one on a regular basis increased a woman’s chances of getting breast cancer.
In their book Dressed to Kill by Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer they speak about the link between breast cancer and wearing bras, because tight bras caused build up of fluid within breast tissue.
According to them, environmental pollutants do not have the chance of being flushed from the body by the lymphatic system because of the constricting bras that women wear.
It is also argued that in cultures where bra wearing is not common, rates of breast cancer are lower and also that women of higher socioeconomic strata, who are more likely to wear bras for longer durations have higher incidence of breast cancer.
However according to the Scientific American, there are many reasons why the link between bras and breast cancer put forward by Singer and Grismaijer is not reliable. For one, the study conducted by them did not include sufficient scientific controls – it did not take into account variable such as other risk factors that contribute to breast cancer.
According to Louise Brinton, chief of the hormonal and reproductive epidemiology branch of the National Cancer Institute, the claim made is illogical since cancer risk is impacted by endogenous hormone levels.
Also the claim that “impeding fluid and marinating breast tissue in toxic liquid” is an unreasonable one because bodily fluid travels up and out of the armpits rather than towards the underwire of the bra.
Also according to Susan Love, president and medical director of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, this theory is born out of frustration that comes from not knowing exactly what causes breast cancer. The risk factors do not explain breast cancer fully, and this causes people wanting to blame things such as bras, deodorants, pesticides and so on.
Women are sometimes advised to wear bras to help with fibrocystic disease, and there is a view that says that not wearing a bra will cause cell or tissue damage that will contribute to cancer.
So at best one can say that there is no conclusive evidence to indicate whether bras are good or bad or that they impact breast cancer risk one way or another. The best course of action therefore, would be to wear a bra that fits well, is not tight and which does not pinch or cut into the skin anywhere and wear a bra that is comfortable.