Myth or fact – can an underwired bra increase your risk of breast cancer?
Rumours regularly abound in the press and social media that wearing a bra, especially an underwired one, causes breast cancer. We examine the truth and look at what the research shows.
Since the ‘90s, articles have occasionally appeared in the media and on social networks claiming that wearing a bra or using an underwired bra is a contributory cause of breast cancer. Amongst other things, they state that women who wear a bra for more than 12 hours a day are at greater risk of developing breast cancer than women who don’t wear one and that underwired bras restrict the circulation and drainage of toxins that the lymphatic system tries to remove. Now and then we receive questions from worried customers, which is why we want to look at what the truth is and refer to current research into the subject.
Research study from 2014
In 2014, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention published an American research study ‘Bra Wearing Not Associated with Breast Cancer Risk: A Population-Based Case–Control Study’ that investigated the link between wearing a bra and the risk of breast cancer amongst women. This is the largest study that has been undertaken in the area of bras and breast cancer. In the introduction to the report, the researchers write that they conducted the investigation with media reports in mind that claim that wearing a bra hinders the circulation and drainage of the lymphatic system, thus affecting its ability to remove toxins and waste products.
The study looked at the bra-wearing habits of postmenopausal women between the ages of 55 and 74 throughout their lives. Two groups of women took part in the research: the first was comprised of 1044 women diagnosed with two types of breast cancer (IDC and ILC) and the second a control group of 469 women who neither had nor had been previously diagnosed with cancer.
“No aspect of wearing a bra can be linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.”
The results showed that no aspect of wearing a bra can be linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. This includes amongst others:
• Breast size (cup sizes A, B, C, D or larger).
• Average number of hours during the day that you wear a bra.
• Wearing an underwired bra.
• The age you first start wearing a bra (12 or younger, 13-15, 15 or older).
None of the factors cause an increased risk of breast cancer.
Previous studies in the area
In the conclusion of the report, the researchers write that their results support the conclusions of a previous research study from 1991, published in the European Journal of Cancer and Oncology. This prior study was also conducted with postmenopausal women, although the participants were only classified according to whether or not they wore a bra. The study didn’t account for the types of bras (underwired/non-wired) the women wore or the number of hours a day for which they wore them.
The study did take cup size into account, and the researchers state that women who don’t wear bras are at half the risk of developing breast cancer compared with those who do. However, this is because the women who didn’t wear bras were slimmer and had smaller breasts. Amongst the women who wore bras, it was those with larger breasts who had a higher risk of breast cancer, but according to the study this was due to them being severely overweight, not that they wore a bra per se. So, you can safely continue to wear whichever bra you prefer.
If you feel unsure or worried about your risk of developing breast cancer, or if you have breast cancer, contact a doctor or other specialist. It is good to know what increases or decreases the risk of breast cancer, there are many influencing factors, but whether or not you wear are bra has no impact.
However, we think it’s important that you wear the right size bra for the sake of your comfort. If you’re unsure which size is right for you, check out our size guide or contact our customer service team, and they’ll help you to figure out your bra size.
Lu Chen, Kathleen E. Malone, and Christopher I. Li. ‘Bra Wearing Not Associated with Breast Cancer Risk: A Population-Based Case–Control Study.’ Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, September 2014, Volume 23 Number 10. Read the research article here