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Friday Q&A: Do Bras Cause Breast Cancer?

10-4-do-bras-cause-breast-cancerIn honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re tackling one of the most common Q&As about bras: do bras cause breast cancer? There are a lot of rumors and misconceptions about whether there’s a link between bras and breast cancer, so today we’re going to look at the most common arguments and whether there’s any merit in them. (Hint: the quick answer is “no!”)

The Official Answer: Bras Don’t Cause Breast Cancer
The Susan G. Komen website says this about bras and breast cancer:

Scientific evidence does not support a link between wearing an underwire bra (or any other type of bra) and an increased risk of breast cancer. There is no biological reason the two would be linked, and any observed relationship is likely due to other factors.

So there you have it! Curious about other factors? Check out the Susan G. Komen page on “Risk Factors and Prevention” to find out about other common myths and rumors that don’t cause breast cancer.

But What about Doctors Who Say it Does?
In tracking down rumors for this blog post, I ran across an article by a “Dr. Mercola” claiming that wearing a bra can, in fact, cause breast cancer. He cites articles by other doctors, as well as various studies, to support his claims.

If you look more into his background, you see that Dr. Mercola isn’t a conventional doctor – he’s an “osteopathic physician, also known as a DO.” The web describes him as “a web entrepreneur and alternative medicine guru.” And the FDA has previously ordered him to stop making illegal claims – unsubstantiated claims with no scientific basis that clash with what the medical community has to say about a variety of topics. He also sells “supplements” that are branded under his name that are intended to help stave off a variety of ills – including cancer.

Here’s the deal: anyone who says that bras cause breast cancer are directly contradicting the medical community. They’ve got their own private agenda to promote. If you hear anyone claiming to have “proof” that bras cause breast cancer, do a little more digging into their background and the sources they’re citing. You’ll probably find that they have no authority to make those claims, and they’re trying to get you to do or believe something for their own reasons.

But What about the Book “Dressed to Kill?”
The persistent source of the rumor that bras cause breast cancer can be traced back to the book “Dressed to Kill” by Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer. We’ve already written a blog post debunking their claims, but it’s worth repeating in light of today’s Q&A topic. Singer and Grismaijer aren’t doctors. Their book isn’t based on a scientific medical study. It’s purely conjecture based on their observations. Singer is an anthropologist and Grismaijer is an optician – they lack the medical and scientific background to actually chase this rumor to its source.

They cited a study that they claimed “linked” women in Western cultures who wore bras with having a higher rate of breast cancer. The study compared Western women with more traditional cultures. What they neglect to mention is that the study didn’t control for data on diet, weight, exercise, menstruation, pregnancies and breastfeeding – all known risk factors for breast cancer. Without controlling for those factors, the dataset simply doesn’t “prove” this link. Again, this is a case of people with no medical background twisting things around to suit their own agenda.

So there you have it, ladies – wearing a bra does not cause breast cancer!

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