Bra wearing and breast cancer


Victoria Beckham has been criticized by US weekly for her penchant to let her breasts “hang free” and not put on a brassiere while in public.  In an open letter on their website addressed to Victoria, the editors wrote this:

“You’re a woman with perky breasts that apparently like to breathe. But keep shunning that bra and in five years you’ll end up with pendulums.”

Maybe there is nothing posh about Victoria Beckham’s braless state but she might have a good reason for shunning them.  Maybe she read the book Dressed to Kill by Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer and she was only trying to protect her mammaries.

I haven’t read the book but the essence of it is that by constricting the lymphatic system, an internal network of vessels that flush wastes from the body, a bra causes toxins to accumulate in the tissues of the breasts, creating an environment ripe for developing breast cancer.

Singer and Grismaijer have collected striking (but preliminary) evidence that bra-wearing may be a major risk factor associated with breast cancer: women who wear tight-fitting bras 24 hours a day are 125 times more likely to have breast cancer than women who do not wear bras at all. Their interpretation is that tight clothing inhibits the proper functioning of the lymphatic system (an internal network of vessels and nodes that flushes wastes from the body) and leads to a buildup of carcinogenic compounds in the constricted areas. 

The book has apparently caused a lot of controversies about the correlative factors of bra wearing and breast cancer, with many dismissing it as being speculative or skewed.   This is understandable.  Afterall, the study wasn’t published in a medical journal.

But substantiated or not, I believe many findings covered in the book are interesting and noteworthy for us women.  In fact some of the points are really common sense. 

Namely, that we should avoid wearing tight fitting bras, especially those that leave red marks on our bodies.  That we shouldn’t be wearing bras 24 hours in a day and we ought to let them “hang free” at some point, as well as that we should be aware that bras can add additional constriction in pre-menopausal women because breasts swell during menstruation.

Personally I don’t like to wear bras with underwire.  I use those only when I’m out.  At home, I use those without.  And when I sleep, I go braless.  Let’s say my breasts need a break too.

So I suppose Victoria Beckham can continue going braless, but perhaps in the confines of her own home.  And yes, I do agree that with the editors that she should really consider keeping those boobs uplifted.  I mean, giant pendulums don’t flatter any woman.  Definitely not posh at all.

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  1. Bobbie says

    Bras don’t prevent or even reduce sagging of the breasts. To the contrary, they increase sagging, according to a controlled study conducted at
    Playtex (a bra manufacturer in England) executive, John Dixey — “We have no evidence that wearing a bra could prevent sagging, because the breast itself is not muscle, so keeping it toned up is an impossibility. What it can do, particularly for larger-breasted women, is obviously to provide the comfort and the support. So, if a woman wants a particular breast profile, she will buy a particular brand, and that is what they’re designed for. There’s no permanent effect on the breast from wearing a particular bra. The bra will give you the shape the bra’s been designed to give while you’re wearing it. Of course, when you take it off, you go ‘au natural.’ ”
    It is not entirely true that breasts have no tone. They have no muscle tone as they have no major muscle (the only muscles in the breasts are the milk ejector muscles in the milk ducts and the “goosebump” muscles in the skin. Connective tissue, in particular the ligaments in the case of the breasts, does have tone and will suffer a reduction in tone if not stressed. Bras reduce or eliminate this stress, causing sagging.
    John Dixey, Playtex executive — “I don’t think it’s possible to actually do research into the medical side of wearing a bra because it’s not really, we’re not doctors, but we certainly listen to any advice that comes across or anything associated with wearing a bra, but categorically I could state that we’ve no previous knowledge of any medical problems with anybody wearing a bra, and I think that it’s just hearsay from people who are non-professional.”
    In one breath Dixey admits that Playtex has conducted no research into health aspects of bra wearing and in the next breath claims that Playtex knows nothing of ANY medical problems arising from bra wearing. Well, sure, they are willfully ignorant as they ignore decades of studies of various health problems suspected of being caused, influenced or exacerbated by bra wearing.

    The only study ever published on the subject of bras and sagging was done in 1991, in Japan. The study suggests that a bra can actually increase breast sagging rather than the opposite. The abstract says (emphasis mine):

    “Eleven adult female subjects aged 22-39 years wore a certain brassiere for 3 months while anthropometry and moire fringe photographs on the anterior trunk were taken regularly once a week. After the 3 months, the brassiere was not worn for another 3 months. Then the measurements and photogrammetry were repeated for comparison using superimposed moire configurations. The results are summarized as follows. Regardless of slim or obese trunk, subjects with pendent breasts showed the highest degree of breast form “correction” from wearing the brassiere. In all subjects, after 3 months of brassiere constraint, the under bust circumference was smaller but the chest circumference became enlarged, the distance between the right and left nipples became wider, and the breasts tended to hang down. This change was more marked in obese subjects with pendent breasts. And when this type of subject wore a “well-fitted” brassiere for a long time, her breast form became developed, that is, her breasts hung down more.”
    Ashizawa K, Sugane A, Gunji T Institute of Human Living Sciences, Otsuma Women’s University, Tokyo, Japan: Breast Form Changes Resulting From A Certain Brassiere Journal of Hum. Ergol.(Tokyo) 1990 Jun; 19(1):53-62.

    • sesame says

      Hey, thanks for sharing this info! I’ll be happy not to wear bra. I do that all the time at home. But one question, do you think it’s better to exercise with bra or without bra? I came across some info suggestion without but I wonder if it’ll cause saggng.

      • says

        It won’t cause sagging (actually the opposite) but if you’ve been wearing a bra all day every day for years you probably won’t want to go without during vigorous activity, at least not for a while.
        As far as pain and discomfort, we are all accustomed to some pain and discomfort during vigorous activity. It doesn’t feel good to come down hard after going up for a basket, volleyball spike, etc. But we don’t generally notice as we are used to it and are concentrating on the activity unless it is to an extreme, like coming down on a stone, twisting the ankle, etc.
        Women of “quality” used to go to “finishing” school to learn how to walk and use stairs smoothly without jouncing, among other skills. Stylish corsets were open-topped, so any jouncing set the breasts jiggling on top like balloons full of jello. Learn to walk smoothly and you can go braless or minimally bra’ed except perhaps during exercise and running, without bouncing and swaying.
        Exercising, if it causes weight loss, may reduce the fat in your breasts. As most of the “filling” of the breast envelope is fat, loss of fat will “deflate” the breasts, making them appear to sag, especially if you’ve been overweight and the skin of your breasts has stretched.
        If you will watch you will see that most women today aren’t like plaster mannequins when they move. A lot more breast movement than was socially acceptable years ago.

  2. Bobbie says

    Sorry about the gap in the account of breast sagging research. “Conducted at” goes to “The only study…” not to “Playtex.”

  3. says

    The insult “loose woman” came from the corset era. Women who did not wear, for whatever reason, typically poverty, a corset were called “loose,” inferring loose morals. The poor have through the ages been looked down on as being poor due to low morals. . If you are rich it must be that God loves you?

    Prostitutes, most of whom were poor or they wouldn’t have been prostituting, commonly did not wear “stays” (corsets) so the association of loose clothing and loose morals stuck. It was also a mark of low morals for a woman to wear underpants, as actresses, dancers and … prostitutes, all considered women of low morals, were the introducers of women’s underpants. So no matter what a woman does, someone is going to accuse her of wrongdoing. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t., 11-19.htm . Can’t please everyone all the time.

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