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Guest Post: Big Bra-ther

A guest post by Kate:

You wear bras. Or maybe you don't. Maybe you're male or identify as such, or don't like them, or like camisoles (I'm a fan of the all-purpose stretchy cami myself). Maybe it was hard to decide between front-hooking bras and the back-clasping ones.

In all the long list of logical reasons you can decide not wear a bra, doing so to prevent breast cancer is not on there. The bra-breast cancer link is a myth with enough steam gathering behind it that both the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the National Institute of Health have been forced to note that there is no evidence of a link between bras and breast cancer on their sites.

The main culprit in spreading this crazy idea is a 1995 book called Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras by Soma Grismaijer and Sydney Ross Singer, a married couple who are not scientists, and did not follow scientific procedure. Their saga begins when Soma developed a lump in her breast, and Sydney noticed she had red marks on her back from wearing a bra all day. Combining that with knowing tribal cultures go bra-less, and have a low incidence of breast cancer, they decided that bras were restricting lymph flow and causing breast cancer! (pirates and global warming, amirite?)

See any problems here?

  • Are all types of breast cancer from bras? They develop differently, in different locations.
  • Confirmation bias means starting with a preconception, and then finding data to support it. Grismaijer and Singer started by presuming bras = breast cancer, and then claimed they people they interviewed supported this theory. Biased? Yes.
  • There’s no proof that lymph blockage occurs OR contains cancer.

So what’s the harm? I mean, if Lady X doesn't wear some Victoria's Secret creation as a result of some bad reading decisions and a lack of skepticism, what's it to me? Well, if Lady X just doesn’t like or want to wear a bra, I don't particularly care. But if Lady X isn't wearing a bra because she thinks that by doing so, she's lowering the risk of, or preventing breast cancer, I have a lot of issues with that.

If Lady X thinks bras are causing breast cancer, she might not get mammograms. She might not check for lumps, or take any of the other real, science-based steps to prevent breast cancer. That's not cool, folks. That's downright dangerous.

Then there’s The Law of Multiplying Woo. If there's one thing I've learned about alt-med, it's the underdog story. No one ever makes the Completely New, Groundbreaking, Really Important Discovery in alternative medicine without being shut down by Big Pharma. Or in this case, The Lingerie Industry, and Bra Interests.(I swear I didn’t make these up—but they did make me giggle.) And if Lady X hears, as the authors suggest, that bra companies are silencing the ‘real research’, is it such a big jump to believe that pharmaceutical companies are trying to cover up the success of homeopathy? Or that unions of physical therapists are hiding ‘the truth’ about acupuncture?

The underdog story means that it's up to the public to spread the word of the damage done by lingerie. This means that Lady X will probably tell Friend Y about the Serious Danger of wearing bras. Friend Y might give up her bras and tell her friends. Then we have multiplying, spiraling woo. This is bad for skepticism, science, and our collective health.

So wear your bras or burn them, but please, do it for the right reasons.


Kate is a student in Chicago studying Arabic, psychology, and human development. She juggles occasionally, would knit you something warm if she knew you, and reads anything she can get her hands on.

Featured image credit: MacTrast

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