Studies show possible link between bras and breast cancer

The official trailer for the upcoming movie “Detected” was recently released, showcasing what its creators at Circadia Health have named iTbra, a bra that utilizes heat sensors to track the temperature fluctuations in breasts, in order to aid in the early detection of breast cancer. Ironically, many believe bras themselves are the greatest risk for breast health, some believing that the incidence of cancer is increased by more than a hundred times for people who wear a bra 24/7.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women worldwide. Nearly 1.7 million new cases were diagnosed in 2012, making up about 12 percent of all new cancer cases and 25 percent of all cancer in women. As a result of this, there is enormous motivation for women to determine the risk factors, but some believe that motivation is not shared by organizations such as the American Cancer Society and the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

“There are industries which produce bras, with 1 million bras sold in the U.S. daily,” medical anthropologist Sydney Ross Singer wrote via email interview. “This industry naturally wants to avoid this issue altogether, to avoid class action lawsuits. Meanwhile, women are conditioned by media and other cultural cues into believing they need artificially shaped breasts to be acceptable in public. And the medical industry, which profits from the detection and treatment of disease, makes multi-billions of dollars annually on this.”

Husband and wife Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer are medical anthropologists, co-authors of several health books including “Dressed To Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras,” and the co-directors of the Institute for the Study of Culturogenic Disease, located in Hawaii.

“Medical education boiled down to identifying symptoms and prescribing drugs or surgery,” Singer commented. “Meanwhile, research shows that most diseases and deaths in the world are due to lifestyle/cultural factors.” In 1991, the couple, equipped with anthropology, biochemistry and medical training, decided to integrate these fields into a new approach, examining the cultural causes of disease and searching for prevention instead of treatment. They later coined the term “culturogenic disease” and began the Institute for the Study of Culturogenic Disease. Singer wrote that the two did not fully realize the significance of their new approach until Grismaijer discovered a lump in her breast while doing field research in Fiji.

About a week before she discovered the lump, Grismaijer had been hanging out clothing to dry when a girl who had never seen a bra asked its purpose and after being told relied, “Isn’t it tight?” Grismaijer answered, “I suppose it is, but you get used to it.” After Grismaijer found the lump, she and her husband returned to the U.S. Grismaijer was pregnant at the time and therefore unwilling to submit to regular treatment. When the couple arrived home from their long flight, a theory emerged from the red marks and indentations around Grismaijer’s breasts left by the bra. The couple then considered that perhaps the tight bra could be interfering with lymphatic drainage.

“Lymphatic vessels are tiny, thin and easily compressed,” Singer wrote. “If this were the case, fluid would accumulate in the breasts, and this would also limit the functions of the lymphatic system, which include removal of toxins, cancer cells, and other waste from the breast tissues. Keep in mind that the lymphatic system is the circulatory pathway of the immune system. Impair the lymphatics and you are asking for disease.” After initial research the couple was shocked at the lack of knowledge surrounding the issue and decided they would conduct their own studies. There emerged Singer and Grismaijer’s 1991-1993 bra and breast cancer study. The couple interviewed nearly 5,000 women in five major U.S. cities, about half of whom had breast cancer.

“Essentially, we discovered that the longer and tighter a bra is worn, the greater the chances of developing breast cancer,” Singer commented. “Bra-free women have about the same incidence as men. And women who wear bras 24/7 have over 100 times the incidence as bra-free women, which is greater than the link between cigarettes and lung cancer.”

Another study from Harvard in 1991 reported that those who wore bras had a 100 percent higher incidence of breast cancer than bra-free women, but the authors, dumbfounded, could not explain these accidental findings and the evidence was dismissed. Since that time, other similar results have been noted, including studies from China, Venezuela, Scotland and Kenya.

“When you consider that bras are worn from puberty onwards for long hours each day, it is no wonder that breasts become diseased…  You can’t alter shape without applying constant pressure, and this interferes with circulation, especially of the lymphatics.” Singer adds, “Bra manufacturers deceive women into thinking that the bra will prevent breasts from sagging, and many women wear bras 24/7 for this purpose. The opposite is the case, and women who stop wearing bras experience a lifting and toning of their breasts within a few months. Pain and breast cysts also disappear once the constriction ends.”

When prompted about the source of doubt around the breast cancer and bra link, Singer wrote that the bra industry as well as companies that profit from the treatment of the disease, have monetary interests aligned with this disease and therefore cannot be viewed as valid sources of information on the subject.

When Singer and Grismaijer’s studies were ignored by cancer agencies and women’s groups in 1993, they published the research for the general public. Avery Publishing Group first published “Dressed To Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras” in 1995. The couple conducted a follow-up study in Fiji and found the same results. Singer noted that the breast cancer industry, funded now by the lingerie industry, eventually decided to conduct a study.

“The study they did was out of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and not surprisingly it found that bras had no impact on breast cancer.” The findings, announced worldwide in 2014, did not include bra-free women. “It’s like studying the impact of smoking on cancer and not including any nonsmokers,” Singer commented.  The study also only included women over 55.

The Susan G. Komen website reads, “Scientific evidence does not support a link between wearing an underwire bra (or any type of bra) and breast cancer risk.” And, “Any observed relationship is likely due to other factors.” Singer ends that considering the conflict of interest within the companies that are relied on most to provide breast cancer knowledge, women can test the bra theory themselves and decide.

“This is the nature of a culturogenic disease,” Singer wrote. “Industries produce harmful products; the public wants those products; and the medical community profits from treating the resulting disease. Given this cultural momentum, it is difficult to honestly address these issues. Everyone goes into denial, and it becomes economically easier for the disease to continue and be treated than to alter the fabric of the culture… In general, people need to realize that the culture is the leading cause of disease. You need to examine its impact on you and take control over your life.”

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