Seattle research finds no link between wearing bra, breast cancer

Sep 5, 2014, 5:56 AM | Updated: 1:01 pm

Seattle researchers have determined there's no link between wearing a bra and breast cancer. (AP Photo/File)

(AP Photo/File)

If you wear a bra to bed, or know somebody who does, researchers in Seattle have findings that should help you sleep better.

It’s been noted that breast cancer is more evident in the U.S. and other developed countries than in developing nations, where wearing a bra is less common. Many risk factors, such as family history, genetics, weight, alcohol use and ethnicity are well documented.

Controversial health author Sydney Singer is among those who claim that bras are also a risk factor because they inhibit the lymphatic system.

“The problem is when you squeeze the breasts, you’re going to make them sick, you’re going to cause disease, ultimately cancer,” Singer told the Vinny Eastwood Show.

But researcher Lu Chen at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC), in Seattle, interviewed more than 1,000 post-menopausal women with cancer and 469 women without cancer. She also questioned women without cancer as a control group. She examined their medical histories and bra-wearing habits.

“We found there was no evidence that wearing a bra is associated with breast cancer,” she said. “In addition, breast cancer risk is not impacted by bra-wearing frequency, wearing a bra with an underwire or starting to wear a bra at a young age,” Chen concluded.

Chen conceded a limitation of the findings, noting that just one of the 1,500 women in the study had never worn a bra. So researchers could not make a valid comparison between women who do and do not wear a bra.

Links between bras and cancer have been dismissed by the medical and scientific communities, including the National Cancer Institute, which funded the Seattle study.

“I think women should be reassured that wearing a bra is not associated with breast cancer,” said Chen.

Breast cancers kill 40,000 people each year. Even though this issue has been out there for 20 years, there is scant research into any link between bras and cancer, according to FHCRC.

The issue was first raised in the 1993 book Dressed to Kill: The Link between Breast Cancer and Bras. The authors are not backing down, according to a news release Friday morning from FHCRC. In an email, Singer questioned why the authors studied post-menopausal women rather than pre-menopausal women and said that their conclusion “suggests a pro-bra bias.”

FHCRC responded by pointing out that most breast cancers are diagnosed in older women – and they also have the longest lifetime exposure to wearing bras.

Research findings are published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of American Association for Cancer Research.

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