Does Wearing a Bra Increase Your Risk of Breast Cancer? - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

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Published on October 21, 2014

Does Wearing a Bra Increase Your Risk of Breast Cancer?

Researchers emphasized that nothing about wearing a bra has any link to breast cancer risk.

Breaking the Myth: Researchers
emphasize that wearing a bra has no link
to breast cancer risk.

Other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. While there are some risk factors women can’t control, such as gender, age, family history and gene mutations, there are a number of lifestyle modifications that can affect a woman’s risk of breast cancer.

Many women have been proactive about their breast cancer risk by limiting their alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, eating a healthier diet, controlling their weight and being physically active.

But should women also be concerned about how their undergarments affect their risk of the disease?

For years, some people have believed that wearing an underwire bra, or any bra for that matter, increased the risk of breast cancer.

This belief stemmed from a study conducted in 1991 that found that premenopausal women who didn’t wear bras had a lower risk of breast cancer than women who did wear bras. However, the authors of the study reported that this link was likely due to related factors to wearing a bra, rather than the bra itself – women in the study who didn’t wear a bra were more likely to be lean, which accounted for their lower risk.

Being overweight increases a woman’s breast cancer risk – women who are overweight are more likely to have larger breasts and wear a bra. Women who don't wear bras are more likely to be at a healthy weight. This difference in weight is possibly why this myth continues to circulate.

There has also been the specific myth circulating that wearing bras with underwire increased a woman’s risk of breast cancer due to the compression of the breast’s lymphatic system. But researchers say that’s hogwash. The general medical consensus is that neither the type of bra nor the tightness of underwire has any connection to the risk of breast cancer.

In fact, new research was just published this September online by Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention that further confirmed that wearing a bra, no matter the fit or material, has no affect on a woman’s risk of breast cancer. The research, entitled “Bra Wearing Not Associated with Breast Cancer Risk: A Population-Based Case-Control Study,” reported that the women involved who had been diagnosed with breast cancer were more likely to:

  • Be taking hormone replacement therapy
  • Have a first-degree family history of breast cancer (mother, sister, daughter)
  • Never have children

Researchers emphasized that nothing about wearing a bra, including cup size, average number of hours per day a bra was worn, wearing an underwire bra or the age when the women first started wearing a bra regularly, had any link to breast cancer risk.

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