My office recently received a call from a patient asking about the risk of her sports bra causing breast cancer. At first I dismissed this as a strange question but I quickly realized that this was based on something she read rather than simply made up. While I may be propagating the rumor by discussing it online, it’s important to address this concern and definitively say there is no connection between the two.
This pseudoscience all started out with a book publishing some “research” even though it was never peer reviewed. This means that no one outside of the research team reviewed the study and it’s data to confirm accurate data collection or generally accepted principles of the scientific method.
Tight Fitting Bras and Breast Cancer
Here are the bullet points of the rationale of the link between tight fitting bras (eg sports bras) and breast cancer:
- Bras constrict the breast and inhibit proper functioning of the lymphatic system in the breast
- Reduced functioning of the lymphatic system leads to a buildup of fluid in the breast
- cancer-causing substances that we take into the body will concentrate more readily in the breast because the lymphatic system doesn’t flush out these chemicals
- Concentration of toxins in the breast lead to breast cancer
The authors pointed out that tribal communities that don’t wear bras don’t have breast cancer, thus proof that bras cause cancer. They ignored other factors that can lead to breast cancer that are also absent in those tribal communities.
Even though their book sounds crazy, someone is buying it because they published in 1995 and then had a new edition in 2005! By the way, the National Institutes of Health and other respected organizations, that I’m pretty sure are not beholden to the “bra lobby” have shown more scientific evidence that refutes any link between bras and breast cancer.