* Wearing a bra over 12 hours daily dramatically increases breast cancer incidence.

* Bra-free women have about the same incidence of breast cancer as men.

* Those who wear a bra 18-24 hours daily have over 100 times greater incidence of breast cancer than do bra-free women. This link is 3-4 times greater than that between cigarettes and lung cancer!

(Source: Dressed To Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras by Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer, Medical Anthropologists)

How exactly is it that bras can cause breast cancer?

Dr. Singer and Grismaijer explain:

“Our theory explaining these findings is that the bra, an elastic garment designed to alter breast shape, applies constant pressure to the soft breast tissue, compressing and constricting lymphatic vessels. Evidence of this constriction are the red marks and indentations in the skin left behind by the bra. Since the role of the lymphatics is to flush out toxins and debris from the tissues, impairment of lymphatic flow can lead to the toxification of the breast tissue. These toxins include endogenous toxins resulting from the consequent tissue hypoxia, as well as the exogenous toxins that contaminate our food, water and air in our petrochemically polluted world. Many of these toxins are carcinogenic. The bra concentrates these in the breast by preventing the lymphatics from flushing them away.

Of course, this means that the cause of breast cancer is not the bra, per se, but the toxins that the bra concentrates in the breast tissue due to lymphatic impairment.

Interestingly, when you look at the worldwide statistics on breast cancer, it is clear that it is only a problem in cultures where bras are worn. No bras, and men and women have about the same low incidence of breast cancer. And the bra link also explains various breast cancer risk factors, as we discuss in Dressed To Kill.

While more research is clearly needed to further study this link, we believe it is prudent medicine to recommend women abstain from bra wearing as a precaution. There is no reason for wearing a bra, apart from fashion. The human body was not designed with a flaw that requires modern lingerie for correction. Like the absurd and destructive fashion of foot binding in China, women in the West bind their breasts. “

When this research first came out back in 1995, I immediately stopped wearing a bra. To be honest, I hated the things anyway and by that point was only wearing the light, stretchy cotton bras by Evita. After this research, I wore undershirts and camisoles instead.

Then as the years wore on, I started to wonder: Why am I ashamed of my nipples? Who decreed that even the outline of a nipple should never be shown?? So then I began eschewing the undershirts and just wearing a normal shirt – ahhh, the comfort and freedom of it.

I must admit, it’s easy for me to go bra-free because I have small breasts. If I had large, heavy breasts, that hung to my belly button when bra-free, I imagine it would be much more difficult. But, I would still do it, except on special occasions. Because there’s another benefit to going bra-free, as Dr. Singer and Grismaijer relate:

“Then something happened that we had not foreseen. Some courageous women who had heard our message tried going bra-free and reported their experiences to us. Within weeks, if not days, most of these women experienced a profound change in their breast health. Breast pain and tenderness virtually ended. Cysts that had needed regular aspirations disappeared. We began to realize that fibrocystic breast disease, common in bra-wearing cultures, should be called “tight bra syndrome.

It all made perfect sense, of course. The bra was causing secondary lymphedema of the breasts due to constriction of the lymphatics. The accumulated fluid caused increased tissue pressure with associated pain and tenderness, and eventually developed into cysts. While the fibrous tissue that develops in long standing cysts takes more time to resolve, relieving the pressure by eliminating the bra allowed the cysts to drain, alleviating the pressure and discomfort. (This also explained why many women have breast myalgia near the time of their menstrual period. Estrogen levels are elevated at this time, increasing overall body fluid retention and increasing breast size. However, women typically wear the same size bra all month long, making it particularly tight at these times, increasing breat pain. Once bra-free, this syndrome usually stops.)

The results are fast, impressive and transformative. It was this link with fibrocystic breast disease that helped keep our bra-cancer theory alive. While it didn’t prove the cancer connection, it did show that the bra was damaging the breasts, adding support to our claims.

We then did a follow-up study to our first US study. This time we went to Fiji, where half the population is bra-free. We approached the Health Ministry and asked for their assistance. Once we told them our theory, they exclaimed, “That explains why our working women are now getting breast cancer! They are the ones who wear bras!” Over the next few months we went from village to village and obtained over 20 case histories of breast cancer. All were in women who wore bras. We found that, given women from the same village (genetically related), with the same diet, the ones who developed breast cancer were the ones who wore bras.”

Braless woman in Fiji

Since doctors Singer and Grismaijer published their research, there have been three Japanese studies confirming their findings. Why has the Japanese medical establishment picked up on Singer/Grismaijer’s research and furthered it, while the U.S. has ignored it? Follow the money, honey.

Until recently, Japan has been largely a non-bra wearing culture. However in the U.S., the bra industry is a multi-billion dollar enterprise. And how many billions of dollars a year are spent on breast cancer research and treatment? it seems like every other month there’s some pink-ribbon run to raise funds for breast cancer in my town.

Is it hard to go bra-free? Heck yes! You don’t realize how screwed-up our culture is about breasts until you step outside the box. Take breastfeeding as one example: On the one hand you have every fashion magazine and most women walking around with their breasts pushed up, plumped out and on display as much as possible. Then you have a woman who tries to feed her childand she is barred from airplane flights, kicked out of restaurants and asked to leave stores (yes, these incidences have really happened).

So what can you do to make the transition to bra-free easier?

  • Start doing push-ups (do them against the wall to start with, then move to on the ground when you’re able) to build your pectoral muscles which support your breasts. These are “nature’s bra”. Even after breastfeeding 3 children, my breasts don’t sag very much because the musculature underneath and above the breast tissue is strong (okay, and because they’re not heavy).
  • Wear silk or cotton camisoles, or tank tops (undershirts) instead of a bra. Make sure they’re natural fabrics as you don’t want the xenoestrogens from synthetic fabrics leaching into your skin either.
  • If you just can’t get your head round going bra-free in public, then go bra-free the second you walk in the door to your home, and only wear a bra when you go out. If this means you have to change in and out of your bra several times a day, do it.
  • Switch to cotton bras (natural fabrics breathe better) for when you must wear a bra and buy them loose enough that you can easily fit two fingers between the torso strap and your ribs.
  • If you think going bra-free looks slutty, then switch to thicker, looser fabrics for your shirts and dresses that drape, rather than cling. A thicker fabric will also hide your nipples (as will an undershirt/camisole). Or layer your clothes, wear a shirt with a sweater hanging loosely over top.
  • Show the research to your husband, boyfriend and enlist his help and support in your endeavour.

Embrace the idea that if a woman packed into a bra who looks like this is acceptably sexy in our culture:

Then a bra-free woman who looks like this can also be sexy:

And what’s wrong with a bra-free woman who looks like this?:

We’ve all felt horror at the pictures of Chinese women who bound their feet and crippled themselves. So why are you following the same type of cultural dictum – binding your breasts, risking disease and possibly death? What’s more important?

p.s. Here’s a picture of me (bra-free as always) and can you even tell??

Jini – cotton tank with cotton t-shirt on top

Update – VITAMIN D – ANOTHER MAJOR FACTOR IN BREAST CANCER:

TORONTO, Nov. 4/09 /CNW/ – Breast cancer is a disease so directly related to vitamin D deficiency that a woman’s risk of contracting the disease can be ‘virtually eradicated’ by elevating her vitamin D status to what vitamin D scientists consider to be natural blood levels.

That’s the message vitamin D pioneer Dr. Cedric Garland delivered in Toronto Tuesday as part of the University of Toronto School of Medicine’s “Diagnosis and Treatment of Vitamin D Deficiency” conference – the largest gathering of vitamin D researchers in North America this year. More than 170 researchers, public health officials and health practitioners gathered at the UT Faculty club for the landmark event.

See my blog post about vitamin D to find out what amount of vitamin D you should be supplementing each day and which preparation I recommend.

Update 2017 – Hey, the world is finally catching on! A video encouraging women to go braless (with lots of tight shirt/nipple photos!) has gone viral on Facebook with over 27 million views. Here’s that same video from YouTube (not nearly as many views as the Facebook version – but that’s the power of social media!):

Burn Your Bra – Before It Kills You
29 Comments

29 thoughts on “Burn Your Bra – Before It Kills You

  • great article, I stopped wearing my bra at home and only wear a loose cotton bra at work, but after this I will probably stop wearing them all together.

  • This article needs to be published front and center of the Globe and Mail! For years after breast feeding my twins I had stopped wearing any bras with wire ….. how pretty they look but horrid they are, buying only cotton soft bras with NO Under Wire. I believed then that the lymph glands were being pinched with the constricted wire near the arm pit, repeating this theory to many. How wonderful to read this article and now know I wasn’t being foolish I was just listening to my gut. 🙂
    Thank you for publishing this article, thank you, thank you, thank you!
    Now will you publish an article on the cancer relation to tampons? my thought is placing a bleached substance into our bodies thus being absorbed into our blood stream can not be good for our health either????? right?????

  • I loved the article…but unfortunately I am so flat chested (no exaggeration–seriously FLAT–not even an A cup) that I rely on my extra padded bra as a kind of security blanket. My husband doesn’t mind how I am built thankfully, but I would never be able to go out in public without wearing it! I feel totally unattractive without it. It is sad that in our culture a womans breasts are so drooled over. Smaller chests run on my moms side of the family, but I have seen several generations of family pictures….I still can’t figure out how I got the worst of it. I jokingly tell my husband that if I ever get up to my goal weight of 128lbs, maybe a set of boobs might come along with it–haha–so unless a miracle happens I feel that I will never be able to feel comfortable without a bra :/

  • Dear Jini,

    thank you so much! Just like every teenage girl in Germany I started wearing a bra around 13 or 14 years of age – but stopped after a week or so since I felt I just could not breathe right! And that is another aspect one should not forget: It is not just the breasts that are hampered by this constant restriction, but the lungs as well.

    In our culture breasts are highly sexualized, and their biological function plays only a secondary role. We are raised to mostly be concerned with the impression we make on men and to put health and comfort on the back burner (think of the monstrous high heel shoes that are fashionable now – and that women actually buy only to wobble along gracelessly…) It is time to change that! The women’s movement in the late sixties saw bras as a symbol for the lower status of women – but perhaps now, with our health at stake, the necessity to free ourselves from these unnecessary restrictions will finally sink in.

    And by the way: A company that would launch comfortable AND elegant shoes would make a mint – the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive!

    I am glad that you are not just addressing issues that are directly related to digestion, but provide us with a larger view!

    Sincerely,

    Sybille

  • First, I’d just like to say it was a happy pleasure stumbling onto Jini’s health website – especially because she unashamedly tackles everyday health issues with refreshing abandon. As someone who works in the conventional health care industry, I can verify that professionals in that field would have a hard time being as forward, informed, or comfortable giving an opinion on controversial topics.

    In regards to this piece on the link with wearing bras with cancer – it is an interesting hypothesis – but I’m not sure that the research or evidence presented really tests this question without accounting for co-variates that may be difficult to adjust for. It would first have to be acknowledged that women who don’t wear bras are inherently different (in regards to lifestyle, culture, environment, occupation, and body composition) then women who do wear bras – and many of these factors have shown to have a strong association with breast cancer as well. For example, women with smaller breasts and who don’t carry a lot of extra body fat are more likely to go bra free in comparison to those walking around with a 42DD load that needs a minor engineer job to keep the back from going out – and that double D dame is at higher risk of cancer because of her high estrogen and hormone levels. It was noted that the women in Fiji who worked are the ones who wore bras as opposed to those who lived in a more traditional role – it may be the work and the work environment that is exposing them to greater risk factors of developing cancer – rather than the bra. Humans have bandaged themselves in weird contraptions for some time – and it varies by culture. I’m not sure if wearing tight shoes or stomach sucking underwear or turbans are linked to an increased of cancer. Just playing the devil’s advocate.

  • Hi Ashley, you know what else comes to mind as another corollary that needs to be taken into account – as someone who has travelled extensively – which country do you think has such a high number of women with DD cup breasts? And which country gives their milk cows and beef, chicken and pigs growth hormones? How about even gives them growth hormones and milk production hormones that have been banned in pretty much every other country?

    And then of course, we have to ask ourselves, how much are these secondary growth hormones affecting breast and uterine cancer rates? Why are girls in the US reaching puberty earlier and earlier? And what about the massive amount of estrogen contained in soy products that have girls as young as 3 sprouting breasts and pubic hair, when they were fed soy formula as infants? Just some more grist for the mill…

  • Kelly, after breastfeeding I too am now smaller than an A cup (see the picture of me above). And depending on my weight I’ve been up to a B cup. Whilst breastfeeding (for about 5 years total) I was a large C cup. But honestly, whether I feel attractive or not, has nothing to do with my breast size. True beauty and that zing of energy that’s attractive has very little to do with outside appearance and everything to do with our spirit, heart and personal energy field. Deep down I know you know this. So if you can’t let go of an outside prop that is harming your health, then guess what…it’s time for EFT! Time to use a body/mind therapy to get yourself free!

  • Speaking as a fellow almost A cup mother of 4 whose mother died of breast cancer, I would like to see the actual research on this. Theory sounds good. But, to the gal who won’t go out without the bra, I second the motion. I have struggled all my life to find clothes that fit. Without the padded bra, my dresses and blouses hang in the most unflattering way. It has nothing to do with how I feel about myself, just how I want to look in my (probably designed by a man) clothes.

  • Excellent points about the growth hormones and xenoestrogens contributing to our cancer-causing hormone plight, Jini. I had participated in a study led by a prominent Endocrinologist in Vancouver who was interested in studying factors that disturb ovulation. I had the opportunity to talk to the young scientist who was running the study, and she had also fully educated me about the role of ubiquitous chemicals like bisphenol A in inducing early breast development and being found in very high levels in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. So we are essentially swimming in this stuff on a daily basis. Apparently, the more fat tissue you have, the more susceptibile you are to these hormone mimics that are absorbed by fat cells. This was a couple of years ago – and what she had told me then is what I’m hearing more about in the news now.

    This board seems to be a place of congregation for A cup women – and I, for one, am absolutely grateful that I am able to run, bike and play volleyball with relative ease. I actually thought it was rather unfair that lithe small breasted women are able to be so much more mobile than heavy-set large chested women – the fit get fitter cycle. I guess it all comes down perception.

  • Yet another triumph for my gut feelings! It seems the older I get, more and more comes to light about my “quirks” that are actually just good common sense. At age 14, the pressure to wear a bra was so intense, I actually succumbed to trying a “trainer” bra. That lasted for no more than a year. I hated the wretched contraption and I asserted 35 years ago, sans science, that something felt unhealthy about bras and that the only people who benefited from the massive industry were the manufacturers and retailers, save the few women who felt they needed the extra support for their specially-sized mammaries. I cited enduring stress due to the discomfort of wearing a bra as reason to not be compelled to wear them, despite social expectations. I’m a medium-breasted woman, so only in during my participation in equestrian events did I resort to a sport bra.

    Bottom line, I celebrate the growing body of knowledge that contributes to women becoming more astute in self-listening, allowing us all to make more intelligent choices in the kinds of styles we herald and wear day-to-day. May there come a day where mini, medium and very large sized breasts will all be publicly celebrated for their beauty and respected in the social mores of the day and by industries that are oriented toward wellness over merely making a profit at the cost of women’s lives.

  • Hi,
    As my teens were in the sixties and I happen to be born in Sweden I am in the lucky position that I was in the right age to join the burn-your-bra-campaign when it first appeared as a sort of symbolic gesture in the women´s emancipation movement. I am now 62 and I have in my possession a few soft cotton bras, but I only use them maybe a couple of hours a month or so, and this has been my habit since I was very young. I then learnt a special exercise which I have used almost every day; it is very easy to do and takes about a minute: hold up your arms in front of you (breast-high) and grab your left arm with your right hand, just under the elbow and do the same with the other hand so that your arms and your body form a rectangle. Then you just sort of “push the skin” up againt the elbow, in a quick and distinct way. I usually do it 25 -30 times in a row. If you can feel and see your breasts jumping when you do it, you´ve got it right. Of course I can´t be sure this is the reason I have never felt the need to wear a bra to keep my breasts up but I think it has helped.
    Sometimes I use a tank-top when I exercise I bit harder, for instance Body attack and such classes, but I´ve never felt I need it, the breast muscles are meant to do the job. I suppose I´m very lucky to live in Sweden because although we too have this horrible pressure from the fashion industry we also have a very strong ideology of equality between men and women and of trying to make both sexes being proud of our bodies as they are. It is also very common to see mothers breastfeeding publicly and there is nothing awkward about sunbathing and swimming topless, even if you´re not exactly young.
    Kind regards
    Malena

  • There are a couple of reasons I’m hesitant to give up bras.

    One, like a few other women here, I feel like my clothes just plain look better with a bra “padding” things a bit. The clothes droop and just don’t “fall” right without that bit of extra there. Yep, this must be the A-cup women’s club. 🙂

    The other is that I’d almost equate a bra to protection of a sort. My husband jokes with me about my “iron-clad” bras (because I always get ones with a bit of padding), but the truth is, if they’re too accessible, he’s going to seek access. And I just plain don’t always want sexual attention. Nor do I want the internal guilt of saying, “Would you just kind of like, you know, maybe not touch me anywhere sensitive unless I indicate that I want to be touched? And just so we’re clear, here’s how I’ll indicate it.”

    So: cancer or guilt/aggravation? The fact that I actually have to really stop and think about that one tells me that maybe I need to do what you suggested to one of the other commenters: EFT!

    Sweden sounds wonderful.

    Sarah

  • I just thought of an alternative for large-breasted women who don’t want to have saggy boobs. Have you seen what Indian women wear underneath a sari? It’s just called a blouse – 100% cotton and they support even the largest breasts with no constriction. So you could just wear that, or design something better and sell it on the Internet!

  • In regards to the bra article, I wear a moulded bra atleast for some shape but I also use a bra extender that you hook onto the back closure which is not so binding.Its never tight . You can find these at fabric stores. They are cheap and comfortable.Lets not forget that antiperspirants also block you from sweating,so where are those toxins going? Right to the breast tissues.!!!The body is designed to sweat to rid itself of toxins.A good cheap alternative is to use a crystal deodorant stone made from natural mineral salts.You can find these at health food stores.I ‘m sure to get alot of backlash from this statement….Mammograms can cause cancer !!!! Its Radiation.Radiation is also a cause of cancer.If by chance there is something there the compression of the mammogram is sure to spread it.Get a breast exam by a doctor and if need be an ultrasound, its alot safer!!!! BE WELL

  • I’m sorry but I’m a 36DD and not wearing a bra isn’t an option. I have large breasts and if I don’t wear a bra, my breasts sag, it hurts. It hurts if I walk or if I am doing anything after awhile besides lounging back in a chair or laying down. I don’t wear a bra for looks, I wear it for comfort so I don’t hurt. And oh, those of you who can only wear a tank top or a shelf bra, congrats to you, but it doesn’t cut it for me. I have to wear at least 1 sports bra (usually a reg bra and a sports bra) while exercising otherwise I bounce everywhere and it hurts. This article makes it seem that wearing a bra is purely for aesthetics, but they don’t take into account those of us with very large breasts.

  • Hi Floris – my amazing mother MADE all my nursing bras for me – she took my light Evita cotton bras and adapted them for nursing.

    However, I know some very innovative suppliers advertise in MOTHERING magazine, so I would head over to their website – they probably have an article on it too:

    http://www.mothering.com

    Also, go to google and type in “cotton stretch nursing bras” and it will pull up some good results for you to browse through. If you make it “organic cotton stretch nursing bras” that will narrow the results further.

    Please post here again when you find a good one!

    thanks,
    Jini

  • For those with heavy breasts, a stretchy-cupped bra with a good chest band (“frame”) and wide straps, that gives some support while still allowing the breasts to move, is a good compromise between no bra and a rigid bra. As time passes and the breasts regain their lost tone, the bra may be replaced with a less restrictive model.

  • I hate bra’s I guess that is why I don’t wear one. They were made to make money and just think about how much money companies have made of these things. Let them be free and see how it changes your mood and outlook on life, you will love it. I read an article that some women wear them to bed, OMG! no wonder why people can’t sleep, LOL! BE FREE, BE HAPPY WITH YOURSELF. Just look back in time when people wore very little clothing. You will be amazed at how much money you save and how good you will feel.

  • Yvonne – just realized I never commented on your tampons-cancer comment. Yes, I’m sure your gut is leading you correctly on this one too. Commercial tampons are usually bleached with dioxin. A friend of mine was an executive in an insurance company and after their company investigated bleaching agents (like dioxin) he made his wife buy only organic cotton diapers for their kids! So yes, there obviously is a significant risk and the way to avoid it is to either buy organic cotton tampons, or use a silicone diva cup:

    http://www.divacup.com

  • PLEASE don’t burn that bra! The synthetic “rubber” in it, plus plastic parts, give off extremely toxic and carcinogenic gases! On cotton bras: Most commercial cotton is poisoned with Monsanto’s Roundup® herbicide, a known severe carcinogen. If you can get a wireless (including plastic underwiring) true Organic cotton bra with no synthetic rubber elastic, go for it.
    I know that many women are mandated to wear bras by their employers. If so, choose one that provides NO support, NO shaping, NO restriction, really, not a bra at all, just a formfitting halter. If you are challenged, you are wearing a bra! Surely dictating what bra you wear is going too far! Really, dictating your underwear is going too far, but jobs are scarce now.

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