Wearing brassieres has long been a custom for women all over the world; this practice has been as a result of a number of beliefs. Exposing the breasts or nipples has long been a taboo in most westernized nations thus requiring every woman to cover their breasts at all times. This has led to breasts being overly sexualized and capitalized by the fashion industry and not forgetting the pornographic industry.
The breasts can no longer be seen as simply part of the female body or rather just a source of nourishment and comfort for babies. Most women wear bras simply because it is the norm while others consider it decent. Women with large bosoms wear them to avoid discomfort while others wear bras to prevent their breasts from sagging. Different parties have tried to disrupt this status quo citing that wearing bras comes with its own health risks.
The health implications of wearing a Bra
Some medical studies have found that wearing a bra may increase the risk of getting breast cancer and/or fibrocystic breast disease. According to Dr. John McDougall, M.D., in his “The McDougall Program for a Healthy Heart” book, Ill-fitting and tight bras are the main culprits to the rise in non-cancerous but usually painful breast cysts and lumps. These are caused by plugging of milk ducts due to repeated inflammation. Notably, fibrocystic breast disease is related with a higher risk of breast cancer.
Bras and tightly fitting clothing inhibit the natural flow of the lymph fluid, which consists of toxic chemicals, from the breast to the armpit lymph nodes. The duration of time one wears a bra plus its nature and tightness can contribute to the degree of blockage of the lymphatic drainage.
Dressed to Kill: The Link between Breast Cancer and Bras, by medical anthropologists Sydney Singer and Soma Grismaijer, is probably one of the most notable studies regarding the bra-cancer linkage. The study involved over 4000 women and found that those who did not wear bras had a lower risk of breast cancer.
Specifically, women who wore bras rarely or never had a 1 out of 168 probability of getting breast cancer. From the study it was extrapolated that the link between bras and breast cancer is about 3 times greater than the linkage between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. While this proved a high degree of irrefutability other professionals singled out that the Sydney and Grismaijer study was not a controlled study hence they did not consider other crucial factors like obesity.
A Japanese study found that wearing a bra can lower your levels of melatonin, which has anti-cancer properties, by a whopping 60%. An earlier study in 1991, published in the European Journal of Cancer noted that non-bra-wearing premenopausal women had a 50% less risk of breast cancer as compared to bra wearers.
The Department of Public Health in Venezuela carried out a study in 2011 and found that brassieres play a huge role in cancer and fibrocystic breast disease and more so bras that left red marks or indentations on the body were a health risk. Push-up and underwire bras were especially identified in the study as a health risk.
One seemingly far-fetched concern is the dreaded underwire, which according to the Father of Applied Kinesiology-Dr George Goodheart, can magnify and sustain electromagnetic frequencies (EMF).
The biggest concern with the metal underwire is that it comes into close contact with the neurolymphatic reflex points on the body. Overstimulation of these points cannot only lead to breast cancer but can also cause problems with the functioning of related circuits that is the stomach, gall bladder and liver. Another concern is the increase in temperature associated with breast constriction which can alter the functioning of hormones and further raise the risk of breast cancer.
Naturally, breasts are positioned to hang out and away from the torso to ensure a lower temperature than the rest of the body much like the testicles in men require lower temperatures for testosterone production.
On the opposing side, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) through the study carried out by The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle in 2014 found that there was no direct connection between bras and breast cancer. They studied 1500 women with and without a history of breast cancer and considered other variables such as duration of time worn, breast cup size, start of bra usage and age among others. The Susan G. Komen Foundation and the American Cancer Society have also deemed the linkage of bras and cancer as preposterous.
However, findings by the Hutchinson study and other fundraising giants should be taken with a grain of salt given the apparent conflict of interest. Other researchers and conspiracy buffs alike have been quick to note that fund raising giants want to cash in on endless research for a cure rather than preventive measures like promoting a bra-less lifestyle.
The half-truths about Bras
Sagging of breasts has been the biggest selling point for bras in the lingerie industry. Contrary to which John Dixey, on a Bras, The Bare Facts documentary, pointed out the fact that a breast is made of mostly tissue & fat and not muscle. Thus it is impossible for bras to tone up or prevent breasts from sagging.
Sagging of breasts is a very natural part of life and should be accepted whole heartedly. In fact going braless can add a 7mm lift annually as was observed by Professor Rouillon in a 15 year old study involving 330 women between the ages of 18-35. Furthermore, women who went braless were realized to have firmer breasts, reduced back pain and faded stretch marks.
Bras take the load off of the chest muscles which over time these muscles and ligaments can atrophy due to disuse. Going braless thus returns muscle tone since the ligaments and muscles have to bear the weight of the breasts.
Transitioning to a braless lifestyle
Breasts benefit from a natural lift and support as is evident in other body parts. Bras not only restrict the natural growth of the breast tissue but also constrain free movement of the breasts during vigorous exercises which become very painful. Like the myth that suggested the stomach muscles needed support by use of corsets, hopefully women will realize that bras are unnecessary.
Wearing a less restrictive bra can be a good start in the transition towards a bra-free lifestyle. Other healthy alternatives include replacing the metal underwire with a plastic one or investing in wireless bras. Lastly, for those looking to avoid a fashion malfunction they can use nipple tapes, silicone nipple pasties, camisoles and sports bras with built in shelf bra.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article intend to highlight alternative studies and induce conversation. They are the views of the (others) author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of StickeeBra, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that it features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied upon for specific medical advice.