Bras Linked to Breast Cancer: Are Lawsuits Inevitable?

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Have you or someone you know been harmed by wearing bras? If so, then you could possibly become a co-plaintiff in a future class action lawsuit against the bra and cancer industries. 

Product liability applies to garments, as well as other consumer products. Bras are known to cause health problems, from headaches and back pain, to nerve compression and tingling in the hands. Bras have been shown to affect digestion, breathing, and even menstruation, since bras also interfere with the sympathetic nervous system. Bras constrict the lymphatic system, which is the circulatory pathway of the immune system. This causes reduced lymph and blood circulation, toxin accumulation, and reduced immune function. This leads to breast pain, cysts, and cancer. 

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The degree of damage from bras depends on the bra material and its toxic chemical content, the tightness it is worn, the length of time it is worn daily, and the number of years it has been worn.  

According to the 1991-93 US Bra and Breast Cancer Study, documented in the book, Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras, bra-free women have about the same risk of breast cancer as men, while the tighter and longer the bra is worn the higher the risk rises, to over 100 times higher for a 24/7 bra user compared to a bra-free women. Since that groundbreaking study, numerous other studies worldwide have confirmed a bra-cancer link. (See below)

Bras are also used as medical devices, worn tightly to stop lactation. And while a tight bra can cause breast lymphedema, bras are also used as a compression garment to manage lymphedema. Clearly, bras have an impact on breast function and circulation.

Despite the fact that bras affect the health of the breasts, bras are sold without any wearing instructions or warning labels. While manufacturers provide sizing charts, these do not mention the problems with wearing ill-fitting bras. In addition, many styles of bras are constrictive and tight by design, such as push-up and strapless bras, even if worn at the recommended size. There is no mention of maximum recommended wearing time for these garments.

Some bra manufacturers have responded to the consumer demand for more comfortable and healthy clothing, developing less toxic materials and a more comfortable, less constrictive designs. However, the lingerie industry may still be found liable for the harm caused by its products, and bras may be required to have instructions about tightness and limiting time worn. 

Unfortunately, the American Cancer Society insists that bras are not a cause of cancer in any way, and never can be. They discourage any further research into this issue. And they sell mastectomy bras to show their commitment to the garment. The ACS also ignores worldwide studies which show a cancer link. 

It’s been thirty years since the first study into the bra-cancer link, and the US breast cancer industry still continues to ignore the impact of tight bras on immune function and cancer development. Tight clothing is fashionable, even if it causes disease, and medicine treats the diseases of fashion. It doesn’t change fashion. There is only liability for cancer organizations in admitting that bras are the leading cause of breast disease, after having denied that it can be true for decades despite the evidence.

It’s very much like the history of the tobacco-cancer link. It was denied by cancer societies and doctors, since everyone smoked. It took 30 years for consensus that a cancer link existed. And then the lawsuits began. 

Will this lead to litigation anytime soon? Not if the lingerie and medical industries can continue to cover-up this information with a flawed study and censorship. But women discover the discomfort and pain of bras for themselves, which is why Gen Z is bra-free. Women are wanting comfort. This is making them ditch the bra. It may also help them avoid breast disease. 

P.S.

The ACS says this: “Online and social media rumors and at least one book have suggested that bras cause breast cancer by obstructing lymph flow. There is no scientific or clinical basis for this claim, and a 2014 study of more than 1,500 women found no association between wearing a bra and breast cancer risk.”

Fact Check:

The 2014 study, done at Fred Hutchinson, did not include any bra-free women, so there was no control group. Also, the only women in the study were over 55, so the results cannot be generalized to women not yet in menopause. 

This 2014 study is the only evidence used to disprove the bra-cancer link, and the only study not finding a link.

Studies that were done that support a bra-cancer link:

  • 1991 Harvard study (CC Hsieh, D Trichopoulos (1991). Breast size, handedness and breast cancer risk. European Journal of Cancer and Clinical Oncology 27(2):131-135.). This study found that, “Premenopausal women who do not wear bras had half the risk of breast cancer compared with bra users…”
  • 1991-93 U.S. Bra and Breast Cancer Study by Singer and Grismaijer, published in Dressed To Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras (Second Edition, Square One Publishers, 2018). Found that bra-free women have about the same incidence of breast cancer as men. 24/7 bra wearing increases incidence over 100 times that of a bra-free woman.
  • Singer and Grismaijer did a follow-up study in Fiji, published in Get It Off! (ISCD Press, 2000). Found 24 case histories of breast cancer in a culture where half the women are bra-free. The women getting breast cancer were all wearing bras. Given women with the same genetics and diet and living in the same village, the ones getting breast disease were the ones wearing bras for work.
  • A 2009 Chinese study (Zhang AQ, Xia JH, Wang Q, Li WP, Xu J, Chen ZY, Yang JM (2009). [Risk factors of breast cancer in women in Guangdong and the countermeasures]. In Chinese. Nan Fang Yi Ke Da Xue Xue Bao. 2009 Jul;29(7):1451-3.) found that NOT sleeping in a bra was protective against breast cancer, lowering the risk 60%.
  • 2011 a study was published, in Spanish, confirming that bras are causing breast disease and cancer.  It found that underwired and push-up bras are the most harmful, but any bra that leaves red marks or indentations may cause disease.
  • 2015  Comparative study of breast cancer risk factors at Kenyatta National Hospital and the Nairobi Hospital     J. Afr. Cancer (2015) 7:41-46.  This study found a significant bra-cancer link in pre-and post-menopausal women.
  • 2016  Wearing a Tight Bra for Many Hours a Day is Associated with Increased Risk of Breast Cancer     Adv Oncol Res Treat 1: 105. This is the first epidemiological study to look at bra tightness and time worn, and found a significant bra-cancer link.
  • 2016 Brassiere wearing and breast cancer risk: A systematic review and meta-analysis  World J Meta-Anal. Aug 26, 2015; 3(4): 193-205  This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to evaluate the association between 8 areas of brassiere-wearing practices and the risk of breast cancer. Twelve case-control studies met inclusion criteria for review. The meta-analysis shows statistically significant findings to support the association between brassiere wearing during sleep and breast cancer risk.
  • 2018 Lymph stasis promotes tumor growth Journal of Dermatological Science “(t)hese findings come as no surprise to us who for a long time have been aware that alterations in regional lymphatic flow may produce dysregulation in skin immune function and consequent oncogenesis. In fact, since 2002, our team has held the view that lymphedematous areas are immunologically vulnerable sites for the development of neoplasms as well as infections and immune-mediated diseases. In recent years, increasing evidence has confirmed this assumption.”
  • 2018 How Bras Cause Lymph Stasis and Breast Cancer Academic.edu  “Recent studies are showing that lymph stasis causes cancer by reducing immune function. This article draws on these studies to further explain how constriction from tight bras results in lymphatic impairment in the breasts and an increased incidence of breast cancer.
  • 2019  Wearing Brassiere – A Less Well Known Factor Associated with Breast Cancer in Women Nurs Midwifery J 2019, 16(12) 891-901. Wearing of brassiere is also a lifestyle-related habit that has sparked many debates today as a risk factor for breast cancer in women. This study was conducted to determine the behavioral Habits of wearing brassiere in women with and without breast cancer. Conclusion: The findings of this study revealed differences in some behavioral habits of wearing brassieres in women with and without breast cancer. So, in preventive interventions for breast cancer, women’s education should be considered in order to be aware of the proper behavioral habits in wearing brassieres.

Clearly, more research is needed, despite ACS denial of any merit to the link. Can the ACS save face and explain 30 years of denying women this information? According to ChatGPT, the ACS is in trouble.

But you don’t have to wait. Just try being natural for one month without a bra, and feel the difference. You can join the International Bra-Free Study, where we have already shown the positive results from tossing the bra. 

For more information: 

Sydney Ross Singer

Medical Anthropologist

Director, Institute for the Study of Culturogenic Disease

Co-Author, Dressed to Kill

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