I am not here to try to convince you. I want to give you some ideas that inspire you to experiment with your current breast health habits. I have looked for research for and against bra wearing and there is no possibility for “double blind control studies” when it comes to clothing. In the United States, it is more and more difficult to find women who have never worn bras who could meet the criteria of a true control group for such studies. I prefer experimenting for myself.
Often a picture is worth more than words or studies. Parvis Gamagami, MD, has these pictures in his 2016 book “Fight New Ways: Breast Cancer”. He had a 50-year career in the diagnosis and treatment of breast disease. While he is unsure about bras in general affecting the genesis of breast cancer, he is convinced that injuries and chronic micro-traumas to the breast tissue can develop into cancer. He has the pictures that show it.
Dr. Gamagami’s book lists eight cases that he oversaw personally in which a breast that had a traumatic event developed cancer within two years. Sometimes the tumors developed as quickly as six months after the injury, always in the exact site of the trauma. He also had the experience of detecting invasive cancer in the thickened line underneath the breast. This was correlated with long-term underwire brassiere use. The constant irritation beneath the breast would develop irritated and thickened skin. When this skin was biopsied, cancer was diagnosed. The tumors sometimes exactly followed the contour of the underwire irritation.
The “Fight New Ways" book is an excellent balance of conventional and alternative ideas about breast cancer treatments. In particular it gives evidence for being very conservative when treating breast cancer, as there is limited proof that the more invasive and heroic treatments add any time to patients’ lives. It is the first book I would buy if I had a new diagnosis of breast disease of any kind, or if I wanted to make an informed choice on my options for breast cancer screening.
My background in lymphatic massage is what convinced me that bra wearing was suspect. As shown in the diagrams below, much of the lymph fluid in the breast is flowing to the lymph nodes in the underarm. Now imagine that you erect a metal barrier over the vessels flowing to these lymph nodes, as demonstrated with the curved lines on these images. How is the lymph system supposed to perform its job optimally if it is hampered?
These tight barriers may be affecting other structures besides the breast tissue. One of my clients had been experimenting with new bras that did not have underwires. As often happens in our busy lives, the laundry was piling up and the only clean bra available was one with underwires, so she put it on and went to work. She was surprised to find that after lunch her chronic heartburn had returned. She hadn’t realized that it had subsided over the past 2 weeks of not wearing any underwires in her brassieres. She removed the bra as soon as she came home from work and had no heartburn after eating dinner. The heartburn has not returned since avoiding underwires. I can’t make up these stories.
So your healthy breast practice is to see if there are any differences in your breast health with removing the underwires from your bras. Underwires are easy to remove from bras with a pair of scissors, as a diagram below illustrates. It is easy to try with an older bra and see if there is any change in how your breasts feel after removing the underwire. This is the “free” option to experiment with. There are many more underwire-free bra options available these days and I have had great luck at box stores like Target. Please post how your breasts responded to this change in the Bra-Free Challenge FB group. We are at the half-way point of the Challenge, so there is still time to invite friends to sign up and receive Bra-Free Challenge emails.
I recognize that this exercise is likely more applicable for smaller breasted folks. Our next healthy breast practice will discuss a new bra design that reduces the bind of the chest band and will still give a feeling of support fluffier bosoms.