Does wearing a bra cause breast cancer?

You may be aware that mammograms cause cancer. Did you know that bras do? Medical anthropologist Sidney Singer studied women in Fiji in 1997. Diet and lifestyle were the same with the compared groups. Those who wore bras had the same rate of breast cancer as American women. Those who didn’t wear bras had no breast cancer at all!

I know what you’re thinking. National Geographic, women who’ve never worn a bra in their life.  We’ve all seen the photos.   That isn’t going to fly here in North America.  I hear you, sister.

Good or bad, right or wrong, our culture hyper-sexualizes breasts—they aren’t just functional, for feeding babies.   We place a premium on them looking pretty and perky – every woman I know who sags at all either has a complex about it, or has had that surgically repaired.

But get this, from Singer’s research:

  1. Women wearing a bra 24 hours a day had a 3 in 4 chance of developing breast cancer.
  2. Women wearing their bras 12 hours a day, but not to bed, had a 1 in 7 chance of developing breast cancer.
  3. Women wearing bras less than 12 hours a day had a 1 in 152 chance of developing breast cancer.

(And of course, as I mentioned, those who rarely or never wore a bra virtually never got breast cancer.)

So, wear your bra less!

Why does support lead to cancer? One theory is that restraining your breasts increases the hormone prolactin, which decreases breast tissue circulation. That impedes your body’s natural removal of fluids trapped in the lymph nodes and glands. And those glands make up the largest lymph mass in the upper body. Bras keep your drainage system from functioning and creates that swamp-like condition I speak about in my lectures constantly. It’s a perfect breeding ground for cancer, infections, and other problems.

The correlation between breast cancer and wearing a bras is four times greater than the correlation between lung cancer and smoking!

So why have you   never heard this before?

Well, who would benefit from this information financially? No one.

Wear your bra less. Definitely do not wear it to bed. Apparently push-up bras are the worst.

52 thoughts on “Does wearing a bra cause breast cancer?

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  1. Correlation does not imply causation. What other factors were/are there? Perhaps non-bra-wearing women are smaller breasted and therefore less liable to cancer. Perhaps their genetic structure differs. Who knows. One contributing factor does not a study make. (Like saying people who eat ice cream are more susceptible to drowning – well, more people eat ice cream in the summer, when it’s hot, so more people are swimming because it’s hot, so …. you get the idea.)

  2. Patty, the mainstream medical establishment does not deny that radiation causes cancer. Well, Mammography is a specific type of imaging that uses x-ray (a.k.a radiation). Yes, mammograms can help detect existing cancer – but the radiation can also cause cancer.

    There are other options – I recently had thermography, an ultra sound, and an MRI in in lieu of a mammogram because I was not interested in the radiation exposure (or pain) that comes with a mammogram. Yes, MRI is more expensive – but the technology for detecting breast cancer is BETTER than a mammogram, and with no radiation exposure.

    You may feel that mammography is the right thing for you, and that is okay. The great thing about liberty is that we are each entitled to our own opinion. I applaud Robin for sharing her ideas on what she feels is right for her so that her readers can evaluate all options and choose what is best for them!

    1. Very well said, A.B. I agree that everyone should have her own choice! I would like insurances to pay for multiple options, and I’d like women to have more information before they make those choices.

  3. I’ve always hated wearing a bra, but due to the social norm, I suffered through it far too long. I’m only 33 now, but about a year ago I decided enough was enough and quit – cold turkey! LOL

    Bra’s, no matter the brand, have always been so uncomfortable to me and I always found myself adjusting them – my husband even gave me a hard time about how often I had to adjust my bra! I was professionally fitted to try and relieve the need for constant adjusting, but that was a failure too.

    I’m small busted, so I don’t need the support anyway, but I have been self conscious about nipple showing; especially at work. I don’t want my breasts to be sexualized unnecessarily, so I do find myself wearing under shirts (tank tops/cami) frequently, which create enough layers to hide the nipples. In a perfect world, it wouldn’t matter if my nipples showed, but at least I don’t care as much anymore about what people think! 🙂

  4. Hmmm…we shake our heads about the ancient Chinese women binding their feet for BEAUTY. Is this not a bit similar? Just a thought…

  5. I’ve heard this before about bras and deodorant, but where did you get your information about mammograms CAUSING cancer? I have found just the opposite to be true….mammograms save lives! Now I have to wonder about some of the other information you give on this blog……hmmmm

    1. patty, please study this issue out because I do not make that statement lightly. The evidence is impressive that exposing the breasts to such high levels of radiation does, in fact, cause cancer. A number of books cover the significant evidence about this and the political issues related to it.

  6. No bras? Alternative is to get surgery to reduce these knockers then! God blessed me with an ample chest and as much as I would love to go bra less I would be so incredibly uncomfortable not wearing one! UNLESS, I was smaller chested! LOL!

  7. What I’ve learned about deodorants: A long time ago I switched from regular deodorants to the crystal kind, then found they were no less toxic. So I tried a drop of tea tree oil under each arm and it works great at eliminating the odor. Don’t use it after shaving tho as it may irritate. Since it is an anti-bacterial-fungal-yeast-mold agent it stops the growth of the organisms that cause the odor. I just came upon a good blog that addressed the crystal deodorants at bubbleandbee.blogspot.com if you are interested.

  8. About 12 years ago my husband and I happened upon a book from the 1960’s that talked about the direct correlation between health, diet, and lifestyle. We were struck by a page written by the authors wife where she shared her story of finding a big lump in her breast. She and her husband were discovering that behind any illness or symptom is an underlying cause and if you can find it and take that away then the illness or symptoms disappear. I don’t remember exactly how they came up with what they did but the wife quit using deodorant / antiperspirants and changed to wearing light, unrestrictive cotton bras. The lump started slowly to shrink and within a year it disappeared altogether. She made it clear she wasn’t giving medical advice, nor saying all lumps would respond this way, but was saying for her, they found this was the “cause” of the lump.

    I had quit using antiperspirants years before after finding a salt crystal (which I love) but the bra part just resonated with my husband who had always been very concerned about underwire bras so after reading this asked me please not to wear them anymore. I loved underwire bras!!! But if my hubby didn’t mind then I asked myself why should I, so I quit and have been wearing all cotton unrestrictive bras. I often worry about how much of the chemicals that are in cloth is absorbed by our skin and wish my daughters and I could afford organic bras and undies since these items cling to your body. I remember growing up my mom didn’t want us to wear nylon bras and undies, as she said they “hold in too much heat which isn’t good for your bodies”.

    Something else I remembered is that neither of my grandmothers wore bras as far as I know. Just full slips or these baggie camisole type things. Neither ever had cancer. Things changed though when my mom was young (until the no-bras of the 70’s) and then bra wearing was a “must” because if you didn’t your chest muscles would break down and all kinds of things could come from that. Sadly my sweet mom, of blessed memory, died a horrible death from breast cancer 13 years ago. She would have loved all of this info and I know would have been a green smoothie bra less mama!

    Thank you Robyn for your research and for sharing this. I have always wondered if a connection would ever be made and people would start thinking about this.

  9. Well I’m still not going to give up wearing a bra for modesty’s sake, but I’m now going to wear mine as loosly as possible. Now I just need to start buying non-underwire bras…

  10. Scary isn’t it! I was just doing some research on ovarian cysts (breast cysts & PCOS are related problems) and ran into the field xenoestrogens and how the can’t really mess a woman up (men too). Being for natural & healthy I wonder what you have learned about this?

  11. Great post. There are more risk factors besides the inflammation caused by compression trauma. There are so many contaminates in our food supply that behave like hormones in breast tissue that they are hard to track. Before you get your readers to go “free” have them change their diets. First thing all my patients do is learn how to be vegan and start a detox protocol. keep up the great work!

    Greg Olson, Las Vegas NV

  12. I’ve worn a bra to bed since high school. I’m 40 now!! I was told it prevented saggy. I actually think it helped but I’d rather be saggy than have breast cancer. So NOW what do I do? Is there some kind of “flush”. I’ve been doing a “figure 8” massage thing in the shower that a friend told me about. I’ve also done manual lymph drainage. I need to do the lymph brushing that Robyn posted a video about a little while back.

    And just curious… So are we talking no underwire or no bra at all? What about a sports bra? This is for the day time. I’ll go bra-less at night (won’t hubby be happy!).

  13. Robyn, Recently, I’ve gone bra less at home. but I’m still not comfortable with it. I’ve been doing it because of a back injury and after a time the bra hurts. You are fortunate to be so slender. I think running or horseback riding would present quite a problem for someone on the heavier side well endowed. Any suggestions?

  14. Years ago, I read an interesting article in Vegetarian Times Magazine about breast health. The article said that women in India had the habit of doing breast massage every night and this would help encourage proper circulation in the breasts and help to move lymph through the area. Many years later I had the chance to ask an oncologist about this. He said that this massage would certainly help drain the milk ducts where so many cancers form, but he didn’t know what to say about the lymph drainage part. I do this every night before bed.

    To do the massage, you grasp each breast and the idea is to rotate them up the outside of your ribcage, across the top of the ribcage, and down the breastbone to complete one full circle. The article recommended that if you do not have cancer, then 100 rotations are sufficient, but if you do have cancer, then 300 rotations are recommended. I do not have cancer, but I am well endowed, so I do 150 rotations each evening.

    In the beginning I felt a lot of itching when I completed the routine and I ascribe that to moving fluids and tissues that had not moved appropriately for a long time. I no longer get those sensations which I think is a good thing.

    I hope every woman gives this a try. I think it can really help.

  15. I have always hated wearing a bra. I am a big so it is very evident when I do not wear one. I have always felt it was a man’s world that mandated women restrain their breasts and of course what men like women adopt as good. The striving for the perkiness of youth is another trap we women fall into. Be proud of your years and the natural changes that come with it. I can’t imagine why someone would wear a bra to bed.

  16. i was referred to a breast surgeon in my 20’s because i have very cystic breasts. she told me that wearing an underwire bra was bad but she didn’t really say why so i just ignored her advice. after i started my health quest i did start removing wires from bras because i didn’t want metal attracting radiation (don’t even know if that’s possible but i did it anyway). i always wore my bra to bed to prevent sagging. then i learned it restricted lymph flow so i stopped doing that. now i will try to keep it off unless i am going out of the house. thanks for the info!

  17. Have you heard of “phluffing your girls?” My midwives introduced me to this after my last baby was born. They gave me the pamphlet found here: http://www.cherylchapman.com/pdf/phluff.pdf. While I don’t agree with everything it promotes (mammograms for example) it talks about activating the lymph system around your breasts each day. If you have to wear a bra for the whole day or even at night (when wearing nursing pads after baby is born) this may be a healthy way to still get some of the benefit of not wearing a bra at all!

  18. I heard about this years ago (my husband actually reported it to me and was concerned that I’d fall asleep with my nursing bra on) and have made sure never to sleep in a bra since. I also go as long as I can in the mornings without one, but eventually the “girls” get too sore and I have to put one on. (This probably isn’t an issue for ladies who aren’t DD-bleah.) I also use daily skin brushing to clear out the lymph around my arm pits, chest and whole body. When I do this I really feel like I’m helping my body prevent all kinds of problems! I learned this technique from Teresa Tapp who’s an amazing fitness trainer and very knowledgeable about the endocrine system. I love her T-Tapp workouts too!

  19. Did the study use only underwire bras or did it vary among the participants. I imagine that underwire would be more harmful than others. I’ve always hated the way they feel, so I go with brands like Warners that have good support without a wire. It’s at least more realistic to go without a wire than without a bra!

  20. I am not surprised at all! My midwife just taught me that women who wear underwire bras have this hard lump that is directly under the underwire. If a bra can cause breast cells to harden like that (I felt it, so I know it’s accurate), then I can believe that it can damage the cells to the point of cancer, too.

  21. I always do a little independent research on this stuff and then try to make a judgment for myself. Usually I am eventually convinced that Robyn has made a great point! This study, however, was never published in a peer-reviewed journal, did not adjust for known breast cancer risk factors that might be associated with bra-wearing behavior, like weight and age. Also, study participants knew the hypothesis before taking the survey. Robyn always does a great job pointing out the scientific validity of the research presented and I comment only to be thought-provoking and promote discussion. All my best – Grace

    1. Grace, true enough. Unfortunately I don’t think peer reviewed journals have a corner on good research. Some of the shoddiest, agenda-driven, manipulated research in the world comes out of those publications. So, while this research is imperfect, it gives us a chance to think about yet another unnatural habit of the modern age could be impeding the body’s natural energy flow, with negative consequences. Unlike the Vitamin D issue, which has been published to death with consistent results, this is a provocative look at a little-studied issue. But it makes sense on a logical level, doesn’t it? It’s *enough* evidence that I’m going to alter my behavior (not radically, but significantly).

  22. Patricia Bragg (Bragg’s Aminos) wasn’t “crazy” after all. She’s claims to have worn nothing but camis/tanks her whole life. I read it in one of her books. Not sure how long ago. 20 yrs ago?

  23. I’ve heard about the bra thing. I’ve also heard things about aluminum seeping into our most absorbent of lymph nodes through our deoderants that are full of aluminum in order to stop perspiration. That it can promote the spread of breast cancer quicker. What can you tell more on that topic and if one should consider using a different deoderant/anti-perspirant or something home-made to avoid putting these harmful toxins into the body? Any thoughts?

  24. my mom always told me that years ago. Never ware your bra to bed and never ware under wire. Well what a concept….I believe you are right

  25. I have heard this for years. Occasionally I’ll look for a less-restrictive bra, but usually I just lapse into the same old habits.

  26. Well I’m so self conscious when I don’t wear a bra, however if I have enough layers of jackets or a coat I find no one even cares or looks. Thanks for the info I will show this blog to my teen who often wears her bra to bed.

  27. About 15 years ago while in college, I took a massage class and the instructor told us the exact same thing! That wearing a bra increased your chance of getting breast cancer. And believe it or not, I didn’t wear a bra for several years. Unfortunately, pictures from my husbands college graduation prove it! YIKES! But I still cannot wear a bra for long. They are just plain UNCOMFORTABLE. So, if I wear a bra now, it is because I am going out for something, but as soon as I get home, it comes off. And the bra I am wearing when I wear one is a loose fitting sports bra style with thin straps that isn’t too tight. I must admit, it doesn’t look very good, but it is what is comfortable. Thanks for sharing! Gave me a good giggle!

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