Monday, 29 August 2016

More Research Links Bras and Breast Cancer

Every October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month comes around, when "early detection" is promoted as the only way to protect yourself against breast cancer. Fortunately for many women, not wearing a bra may be one of the true best protections, according to two recent studies from Kenya and Brazil.

The link between wearing a bra and breast cancer is not new. The 1990s book Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras described research showing that women who did not wear bras had the same risk of breast cancer as men. The tighter a bra is, and the longer it is worn, increases breast cancer risk all the way up to a 100 times higher risk for women who wear bras 24/7. How could wearing a bra possibly be harmful, when all girls are taught to wear them (often against their will) from puberty? Bras may inhibit toxin removal by restricting the blood vessels and lymphatic system. More than 88% of breast drainage depends on the axillary lymph nodes. When disease-causing microbes invade the body, pro-inflammatory chemicals produced by the immune cells and the often toxic fragments of dead microbes must be cleared away, otherwise they are likely to cause more damage (how could the "liver and kidneys" argument used by skeptics possibly have any use there?).

Caution! Don't wear tight bras to bed.
In the Brazilian study, 152 women with breast cancer and 152 controls were interviewed about their bra usage and other factors thought to influence breast cancer risk. Breastfeeding, number of children, age at first period, menopause, family history and alcohol consumption had no significant relation to breast cancer risk. However, women who wore bras for more than 16 hours a day had a 2.79 times higher risk of breast cancer compared to women who wore bras for less than 8 hours a day. Women who wore bras with a higher "stretch percentage", that is, their bras had to stretch more to fit them, also had a higher risk. When stretch percentage was multiplied by time, a value of over 300 was linked with a 2.27 times higher risk of breast cancer compared to a value of less than 150. Wearing a bra to bed was seen in a much greater percentage of women with breast cancer, at a rate of 36% instead of 7%. Smoking was associated with a 78% greater risk of breast cancer, while hormone replacement therapy seemed to have a weak inverse risk in this study. While this was "just" an interview, the women involved were of a lower socio-economic class, and so would not own as many bras; bra-wearing habits do not tend to change much either.

The Kenyan study involved 684 women in total, more than double that of the Brazilian study. Intensity of bra use, diet, occupation, area of residency, hormonal contraceptive use and family history were all associated with breast cancer risk. Marital status had no sway over a woman's risk. It was stated that a quarter of the women didn't wear bras at all, or only for special occasions, while 10% of those with cancer wore their bras all day, including to bed. "I know this will raise some heat within cancer circles, but this is a competent epidemiological study which has yielded indisputable scientific data", said Professor Abinya, who led the study.

More research may be needed to draw definite conclusions, but the currently available studies certainly vindicate those who choose not to wear bras.

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