In media stories and on Internet postings, it’s been widely rumored that wearing a bra, especially an underwire bra, can increase breast cancer risk. The concern is that bras block the drainage of lymph fluid from the bottom of the breast so it can’t get back into your body, so toxins build up in the breast.
There is no evidence to support this claim, and a new study confirms that wearing a bra does not cause breast cancer or increase the risk of breast cancer.
The research was published online on Sept. 5, 2014 by Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention. Read “Bra Wearing Not Association with Breast Cancer Risk: A Population-Based Case-Control Study.”
In the study, the researchers looked at the bra-wearing habits as well as breast cancer risk factors (weight, family history of breast cancer) of three groups of women in the Seattle area:
- 454 women diagnosed with invasive ductal breast cancer
- 590 women diagnosed with invasive lobular breast cancer
- 469 women who hadn’t been diagnosed with breast cancer
All the women were between 55 and 74 years old. The women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer were diagnosed between 2000 and 2004.
The researchers found that compared to women who hadn’t been diagnosed with breast cancer, women who had been diagnosed were more likely to:
- be taking hormone replacement therapy
- have a first-degree family history of breast cancer (mother, sister, daughter)
- never have children
The researchers emphasized that nothing about wearing a bra, including:
- cup size
- average number of hours per day a bra was worn
- wearing an underwire bra
- age when women first started to wear a bra regularly
was linked to breast cancer risk.
“Our study found no evidence that wearing a bra increases a woman’s risk for breast cancer,” said Lu Chen, public health sciences researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. “The risk was similar no matter how many hours per day women wore a bra, whether they wore a bra with an underwire, or at what age they first began wearing a bra.”
This study is very reassuring and confirms other research showing no link between wearing a bra and breast cancer. This myth probably continues to circulate because being overweight does increase breast cancer risk and women who are overweight are more likely to have larger breasts and wear a bra. Women who don’t wear a bra are more likely to be at a healthy weight.