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By Jillita HortonHoneyColony Original

From 1991 to 1993, authors of the Bra and Breast Cancer Study conducted interviews with about 5,000 women, asking them questions about their past bra-wearing habits and attitudes. About half of the women had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

The astounding results suggest that the longer women wear bras and the tighter, the greater risk of breast cancer. Evidence shows that women who wear bras all day every day are 100 times more likely to develop malignant cysts than their bra-free counterparts — that includes women and men.

Here, HoneyColony interviews Sydney Ross Singer, primary author of the Bra and Breast Cancer Study. Singer is a medical anthropologist, director of the Institute for the Study of Culturogenic Disease, and co-author of Dressed To Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras and Get It Off! Eliminating the Cause of Breast Cysts, Pain, and Cancer. Singer’s research on bras and breast cancer was motivated by his wife’s breast lump, which disappeared once she ditched her bra.

HC: Describe your specialty for our readers — the main focus of your work.

SRS: I am a medical anthropologist focused on understanding how our culture causes disease. The leading cause of disease and death in our time in history is the culture and the harmful attitudes and behaviors it instills in people. The general pattern is that the harmful lifestyle practices embedded in the culture and the economy create disease — “culturogenic” disease.

Meanwhile, the medical profession profits from the resulting disease treatment, so it has a conflict of interest in preventing disease and it ignores these cultural causes. This makes culturogenic diseases difficult to challenge and change since there is a cultural investment in continuing these harmful behaviors. Industries support and profit from them and constantly reinforce these bad behaviors.

HC: Why did you first start suspecting there was a connection between bras and breast cancer?

SRS: Our exploration of the bra/cancer link started accidentally, as a result of my wife and co-researcher, Soma Grismaijer, discovering a lump in her breast. At the time she was pregnant, and we were doing fieldwork in Fiji.

A week before that frightening discovery, we had been on a remote Fijian island where bras were rare, and a teenage girl saw Soma’s bra drying on a clothesline. She asked what it was for, and wasn’t it tight? Soma replied it was just something women are taught to wear and that, yes, it can be tight, but you get used to it.

Once we discovered the lump, we went back to the U.S. in a hurry and near panic. We wanted to know the cause of this problem, since without knowing the cause you cannot effectively treat it. The conversation with the Fijian teen was still fresh in our minds.

Soma removed her bra after the long flight back from Fiji, and we looked at her breasts for clues to the cause of her lump. There were red marks and indentations outlining her breasts left by the bra. These were common for her, and we paid no attention to these before. But now these were important clues.

Anyone with training in the operation of the lymphatic system knows how easily the small, delicate lymphatic vessels can be constricted, impairing lymphatic flow. The red marks and indentations around the breasts after removing the bra are signs of constriction.

A theory emerged that we wanted to test. If the lymphatic vessels in the breasts are compressed and constricted by the bra, it could impair the drainage of lymph fluid from the breast tissue. The resulting fluid accumulation would lead to pressure and pain in the breasts, and possible cyst formation.

Since the lymphatics are also responsible for removing toxins, cancer cells, and other contaminants from the tissues, these substances would accumulate in the breast tissue if the lymphatics were constricted.

In addition, our modern exposure and consumption of cancer causing chemicals in our petro-chemically polluted food, air, and water results in greater toxin load throughout the body, and these toxins must be eliminated from the tissues with the help of the lymphatic system. So wearing a bra may also concentrate these cancer-causing toxins in the breasts by impairing their removal. Over time, the breasts can develop cancer.

Essentially, we reasoned that the cause of breast cancer could be a combination of cancer-causing toxins and the bra. The constriction from the bra concentrates these toxins in the breast tissue. The toxins are the bullets, and the bra points them directly at the breasts.

We tested this theory in our 1991-93 Bra and Breast Cancer Study, where we interviewed about 5,000 women regarding their past bra wearing habits and attitudes. About half the group had had breast cancer.

Our results were astounding, suggesting that the longer and tighter a woman wears a bra, the higher her chances of developing breast cancer. In fact, bra-free women have about the same incidence of breast cancer as men, while women who wear a bra 24/7 have over 100 times the incidence as bra-free women. This link is stronger than the one between smoking and lung cancer.

We did a follow-up study in Fiji, where about half the women are bra-free. We discovered that — given the same village, with the same genetics and diet — the women getting breast cancer were the working women who had to wear bras for work. We also discovered that bra-free cultures are relatively free of breast cancer, and their rates of developing this disease increase as the bra is adopted as essential clothing.

We also discovered that women who had stopped wearing bras after learning about our research experienced an end to breast pain and cysts. Fibrocystic breast disease, also known as benign breast disease, should be called “tight bra syndrome.”

We also found that bra wearing causes droopy breasts, since the breasts rely on this artificial support, and the natural supporting ligaments atrophy and weaken from lack of use. Many women experience a lifting and toning of their breast tissue once the breasts are freed from the bra.

HC: What about the tight, binding garments that pre-1900 women wore around their chests?

SRS: Corsets have a history of causing disease and death due to constriction. The body needs to circulate its fluids, and any pressure to the body impairs circulation.

After centuries of causing deformity and disease, the corset finally lost its status as a must-wear item of clothing and was broken down into the bra and girdle. Essentially, the bra is a breast corset, and continues to maim and kill by constriction.

HC: What percentage of breast cancers do you think are caused by bras?

SRS: The medical profession claims that more than 70 percent of breast cancer cases have no known cause, but it seems to be lifestyle-linked. The medical profession also refuses to research or consider the bra/cancer link, despite our research and other research showing a significant link. A Harvard study in 1991 found bra-wearers had a 100 percent higher incidence of breast cancer than bra-free women. So I would estimate that this 70 percent is caused by the bra.

HC: Assuming a woman has tested positive for a breast cancer gene, how significantly will wearing a bra trigger a malignancy?

SRS: Wearing a bra would be a problem for all women, regardless of genetics. Since the lymphatics are the pathway of the immune system, impairing lymphatic function by constriction of lymph vessels can only exacerbate any genetic issues.

Also, the genetic basis of breast cancer is small, accounting for less than 10 percent of the cases. And the physiological explanation for this genetic link is not known. My thought is that the genetic basis could be a tendency towards developing lymphedema. Primary lymphedema is a genetic condition, and means the lymphatic vessels are not working properly. People with this problem tend to collect fluid in their tissues. If this is the case, wearing a bra would make matters even worse.

HC: If the connection between bras and breast cancer is so solid, why hasn’t research, either in the United States or abroad, focused on this?

SRS: Bras are part of the culture, as is breast cancer. The lingerie industry makes multi-billions of dollars each year. And breast cancer detection and treatment make multi-billions each year.

In addition, women are conditioned from childhood into believing they are not acceptable in public without artificially shaped breasts. Just as women in China bound their feet for centuries, causing deformity and disease, and just as women, men, and children bound their bodies in corsets for centuries, women today bind their breasts. It is part of female identity. And the fashion industry relies on women wearing a bra to fit their clothes.

So essentially we have a culture who is addicted to the bra and the money surrounding bra sales and medical treatment for bra-caused injuries and disease.

Also, keep in mind that the medical industry will need to explain how, despite billions of dollars of breast cancer research, the bra has been mostly ignored. It’s like studying lung cancer and ignoring smoking, or studying foot disease and ignoring tight shoes.

In addition, challenging something as iconic as the bra is culturally incorrect. Researchers and doctors are part of the culture, too, and are just as conditioned to think of the bra as essential and unquestionable as is the rest of the public. Female doctors typically wear bras. Challenging bras is challenging a deeply seated belief system.

And history shows how difficult it is to get the causes of culturogenic diseases honestly researched. The tobacco/cancer link was denied for decades, with smoking doctors paid by tobacco companies to promote cigarettes.

Asbestos, mercury, alcohol, noise pollution, and other culturogenic problems are difficult to honestly research since there is so much pressure from affected industries. The medical profession finds it easier to detect and treat the resulting problems than fight powerful industries and people who can destroy careers.

HC: Why haven’t small research groups that are not connected to Big Pharma or the government delved into this? For instance, there are independent researchers focusing on green tea or mushrooms as a cancer treatment. When is a group going to start studying the binding effects of bras on breast tissue? What’s stopping them?

When billions of dollars are invested in bra sales and breast cancer detection and treatment, there is tremendous pressure on any researcher who comes up with evidence supporting the bra/cancer link.

And if the evidence is obtained, medical journal peer review committees may keep it from being published. And if it is published, it will be ignored and never followed up with further research. The media will also ignore it if mainstream medicine does not support it. There’s a lot of resistance to encounter when confronting a culturogenic disease.

HC: A New York Times piece that appeared in Science about bras and cancer states that your study has purported scientific flaws.

Ted Gansler of the American Cancer Society wrote a letter, not a peer reviewed study, that tried to see if women who had had armpit lymph node removal for melanoma would have a higher incidence of breast cancer afterwards. Their informal survey actually showed that there were increased rates of skin cancer, which they mentioned but ignored since it was not breast cancer.

However, this demonstrated that lymph stasis, resulting from lymph node removal, was associated with increased cancer incidence. As for breast cancer, they stated that they did not have enough data to make a statistically valid conclusion. They nevertheless concluded that bras have no impact based on the limited data, and said the lymphatic blockage model makes no sense and is undeserving of any research. They finished by encouraging women to continue to wear bras.

HC: The National Cancer Institute pretty much states that if blocking lymph drainage from breast tissue (via surgery for melanoma) does not increase breast cancer rates, then how can a simple bra?

SRS:  You can’t compare chronic bra-wearing over a period of decades with the post-surgical outcome of melanoma patients. Of course, the New York Times never contacted me for comments when they wrote the article. It is also no surprise that The Times also runs many bra and pharmaceutical ads and is in the fashion center of the world, where bras rule supreme.

HC: What is the breast cancer rate in cultures where bra use is nonexistent?

SRS: Women and men have about the same low incidence (as shown in the Bra and Breast Cancer Study).

HC: Can the low breast cancer rate in these cultures be explained by their other lifestyle habits, such as frequent movement and a natural diet?

SRS: Movement is important to aid circulation. Lymphatic flow is reliant on movement. And a healthy diet would be devoid of chemical contaminants. However, if any part of the body is bound and constricted by tight clothing, a micro-environment is created in the tissues that is toxic. So all these are related issues.

Interestingly, many poor countries get very toxic chemicals and foods that are banned in the U.S. They have lots of diseases as a result. However, if they are too poor to afford bras, then their breasts are spared.

HC: Is there data on breast cancer incidence in these cultures among bra-wearers?

SRS: Besides our Fiji study, which found 24 case histories of breast cancer and all were in bra-wearers, there was a Chinese study in 2009 that showed sleeping in a bra causes breast cancer. Other than these two studies, the issue is being suppressed and censored.

HC: Is there a possibility this can be explained by other lifestyle factors — meaning, women in these cultures who wear a bra may also be more inclined to eat more Westernized (i.e., highly processed) foods and fewer vegetables, as well as take on other Western habits such as smoking and lack of exercise?

SRS: None of these lifestyle factors are as significant as the bra/cancer link, so they cannot explain it. These harmful lifestyle practices harm the body as a whole, including the breasts. But the bra is a direct hit on the breasts and concentrates these toxins in the breast tissue. Also, when people from poor, polluted, bra-free cultures move to the U.S. and start wearing bras, their breast cancer incidence rises.

HC: Is there data on breast cancer incidence relative to the cumulative number of hours a woman wears a bra?

SRS: The incidence seems to rise most significantly with wearing a bra over 12 hours daily. Keep in mind that the tighter the bra, the more harmful it will be over the same period of time. Also, the younger a woman starts this breast bondage, the greater the damage to the developing breast tissue, which is why early puberty is a risk factor for breast cancer.

HC: What about data on breast cancer recurrence in patients who stopped wearing a bra versus those who continued?

SRS: This would be a good study, if the medical industry was interested in looking at the bra issue, which at this time it is not. I can tell you that we have had reports from women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer that the tumor went away after getting rid of the bra. Soma’s lump disappeared once she ditched the bra.

I also recommend breast massage to help loosen the compressed breast tissue and improve lymphatic function. Perhaps the best thing a woman can do for her breast health is try going bra-free for a month to see how she feels. Most women feel immediate relief, especially those who can’t wait to remove their bras once they get home from work.

After a few weeks without a bra, it will feel unbearable to wear one. If she is in pain without a bra, then it is a sign of breast disease. Over time, this pain goes away, especially with the help of massage.

HC: What about large-breasted women? Don’t they need bras for support?

SRS: No! The female body was not designed with an anatomical flaw that requires 20th century lingerie to correct. If a large-breasted woman never wore a bra, then she will have no breast problems. This was confirmed in Fiji, where bra-free, big-breasted women claimed they were “too big” for a bra. They realized the bra was tight and uncomfortable, and their breasts were healthy and problem-free without a bra.

Bottom line: We live in a culture where women are conditioned into believing that they need artificially shaped breasts to be acceptable, and this causes disease. Meanwhile, the medical profession profits from this disease and looks the other way. This means breast cancer is as much a part of our culture as the bra. It is a huge, profitable industry. Women won’t be free of this disease until they are free of the bra.

3 thoughts on “Lethal Lingerie”

  1. It seems to be one of the many ways our culture attempts to control women. We look back in history, and to other cultures, and condemn similar practices, but we can’t see what we are doing to ourselves right now. Great to see scientific research focused on women’s health! Now who will be the first to change?

  2. As a large-breasted woman who HATES her bras, this makes a lot of sense. My mother has breast cancer, and my granmother (size DD) died from breast cancer. I would love to go bra-free, and never wear one at home. However, in this society a woman with boobs cannot go bra-free at work, and if she did there would be a lot of judgement. I would love more research into this area so that the bra-free taboo would lessen.

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