The potential link between wearing a bra and developing breast cancer has long been the subject of chain emails, water cooler chats and whispered rumors.
While most women relish the thought of flinging their brassiere at the end of the day, few of us consider doing it on a permanent basis. But is there any truth that our bra, particularly underwire models, can give us cancer?
No, say the American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen and Breastcancer.org, who all agree that there are no scientifically valid studies that show wearing bras of any type causes breast cancer.
The theory-turned-internet meme first gained mainstream traction in 2005 when a husband and wife team of medical anthropologists published it in the book “Dressed to Kill.”
Their study suggested that breast cancer might be less common among women who do not wear bras than among bra wearers.
Although several studies have debunked the bra-breast cancer theory, the myth seems to have gained a foothold in the female psyche. So Lu Chen, MPH, decided to test the theory.
Chen is a researcher in the Public Health and Sciences Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and a doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Washington School of Public Health.
“One of the reasons why breast cancer may be more common in developed countries compared with developing countries is differences in bra-wearing patterns,” she said in a press release.
“Given how common bra wearing is, we thought this was an important question to address.”
Chen enlisted nearly 1,100 postmenopausal women with invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) and invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC), the two most common subtypes of breast cancer from the Seattle-Puget Sound metropolitan area. She enlisted 469 women who did not have breast cancer to serve as controls.
Chen and colleagues interviewed the women on their demographics, family history, and reproductive history, all known to be possible breast cancer risk factors.