To wear a bra or not to wear a bra…
by Marc TardifIn 1995, medical anthropologist Sydney Ross Singer published findings which linked breast cancer to bra-wearing. As Singer himself says, “Disease is usually caused by something getting in the way of our bodies doing what they’re able to do.” Singer believes bras have been doing just that. The elastic construction and tightness of bras act as a tourniquet on the lymph nodes and vessels, which are responsible for draining away waste products and toxins from the breasts. These nodes and vessels are found under the skin in and near the breasts in areas that can be strangled by the straps, wires, and cups of a bra. According to Singer, the lymph system is the body’s “other” circulatory system. Blood carries oxygen and nutrients to cells and tissues throughout the body. The waste from those exchanges is carried in lymph, the fluids which bathe cells, tissues and organs. Lymph carries waste products to the lymph nodes which filter and cleanse the fluids and return them to the bloodstream. As Singer points out, if the flow of lymph is constricted, the nodes cannot flush the cells, tissues and organs of waste products, toxins and other chemicals (deodorant, cosmetics). Instead, the lymph fluids become backed up, pool in the breasts, and bathe the cells in toxins and cellular debris. This reduces the cells’ abilities to absorb nutrients and oxygen, and cripples their antioxidant systems, allowing for DNA damage. Medical research has shown that these pools of lymph can remain stagnant for at least two years, allowing for toxin build-up and irregular cell growth — a recipe for cancer. Singer and Grismaijer interviewed almost 5000 women, half of whom had breast cancer, and questioned them about their breast cancer history and bra-wearing behaviour. They noticed a higher incidence of breast cancer among those who wear a bra all day, and conversely, a dramatically lower incidence of breast cancer among those who never wear a bra. In their study, Singer and Grismaijer observed the following statistics:
- Of the women who wore their bras 24 hours a day, 3 out of 4 developed breast cancer.
- Of the women who wore their bras 12 hours a day, 1 out of 7 developed breast cancer.
- Of the women who never wore a bra, 1 out of 168 developed breast cancer.
Breasts In The News
- December 1996: a three-judge panel of the Province of Ontario’s highest court decided that women who bare their breasts in public should not be charged of committing an indecent act. This ruling is the outcome of a 5-year case against Gwen Jacob, a former University of Guelph student who decided for comfort’s sake to take off her shirt on a hot day in July 1991. Most Torontonians agreed that this ruling is “a step in the right direction”, but the truth of the matter is that most North Americans are not ready for it. Though the courts now legally recognize women’s right to go top-free* in public, the ever-influential media still propagates the notion that women’s breasts are sexual organs, and hence explains why the sight of bra-free or completely bare breasts if often equated with sex. The archaic solution: cover that which is the temptation. Now that the law is more favourable to women, attitudes need to change. Breasts are not inherently sexual, they are made so by the culture in which we live. The real victory will come when women’s breasts are regarded as being no more than what they really are.
- October 1997: Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer prepared a press release explaining that a Fiji follow-up study presents further evidence supporting claims made in Dressed To Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras. They also announced plans for a nation-wide media campaign to increase North American women’s awareness of their findings.
- December 1997: an article published exclusively on this site explains how bra-wearing can cause breasts to sag more.
- Singer, Sydney Ross and Soma Grismaijer. Dressed To Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras. Garden City Park, New York: Avery Publications. 1995. 192 pages.
- Reed, Ralph L. Bras And Breast Cancer.
- Ralph L. Reed has compiled a list of references to provide a background for discussion and further research on the link between bras and breast cancer.