Why Wearing a Bra Probably Isn’t Healthy

It’s time to get real about what bras really do for our breasts rather than support them.

As a long-time lover of cute, sexy, and supportive bras, I’ve recently discovered that bras aren’t doing much for us—and are perhaps even harming us—outside of covering our nipples, keeping our girls in uniform shape, and looking sexy during sexy time.

The question as to whether or not bras raise our risk for breast cancer isn’t a new one. Studies done in the late 70s through the 90s and beyond show an increased risk for breast cancer with wearing a bra. Although conventional bras weren’t in the making until the 1900s, the truth is that trying to find a way to support breasts could date back to ancient times

Let’s take a look at the research and you can decide for yourself whether or not wearing a bra is something you want to continue doing.

The Conventional Bra Heats Your Girls—But Not in a Good Way

Studies have indicated that there could be a connection with women across different cultures who experienced breast cancer—this common factor is the temperature of the breasts. When breasts are in heavy, tight, or binding fabric, their temperature is increased. This increased breast temperature is associated with breast cancer.

Women with heavier and larger breasts tend to wear bras with more constricting—a.k.a hot and heavy, but not in the sexy way—material, which is thought to increase their risk for breast cancer. Cooler breasts are healthier breasts, according to this study—and women with smaller breasts who wore less constricting material had lower rates of breast cancer. 

This is interesting because it’s been known for some time that higher temperatures (think hot tubs, laptops, and tight underwear) decrease sperm count and increase the risk of testicular cancer for men. Many urologists advocate for a cooler temperature on the testes as a result of this. 

So… why do they get to wear loose undies but we choose to wear tight bras?

They Cause Sagging?!

Don’t get me wrong—it’s not just the tight bras that are under fire in this article. Research also shows that wearing a bra—especially among larger-breasted women—can actually cause your breasts to sag even more. How on earth does this happen?! 

So here’s the deal. Wearing a bra doesn’t make your muscles stronger. In fact, it’s quite the opposite—wearing a bra, especially as the breasts are developing during puberty, can hinder the development of the pectoral muscles. What these means for you is that your muscles can be underdeveloped, which doesn’t allow your body to naturally and properly support your breasts, because the bra has done it for you. 

Of course there are many great exercises you can do to strengthen these pectoral muscles, but it won’t do much if you’re still wearing that bra most of the time. While this doesn’t have much to do with breast cancer, between the overheating and sagging, bras are looking less sexy than ever these days.

Lymph Node Health

Let’s get back to the cancer research. So, the interesting book “Dressed to Kill” published in 1995 claims that bras increase our risk of breast cancer because they put pressure on our delicate lymph nodes (particularly underwire bras) and prevent the lymph nodes from detoxifying themselves from the pressure. Because the toxins are trapped, cancer is more likely.

This book has been highly controversial and is rumored by some to not be supported by proper evidence and many sites, including our very own American Cancer Society, go so far to say that there is absolutely no research that says that wearing a bra causes cancer. Um, yeah? Then why have I wasted my time writing this article based on credible studies? Good job, guys.

Although their research may be seen as controversial by some, their statistics are staggering: they claim that wearing a bra 24/7 gets you a 3 out of 4 chance of developing breast cancer, while at 12 hours a day gets you 1 out of 7. The risk decreases the less time you wear a bra per day.

Whether or not you decide to wear a bra is a personal choice that shouldn’t be influenced by societal norms. Many women (including myself) are choosing to go bra-free as a result of the studies referenced in this article and many more studies not cited here.

For bra alternatives, you can wear camisoles, comfortable (not tight-fitting) sports bras, and even the very popular bralettes, which tend to be cute and comfortable. If you do choose to continue wearing a bra, try to limit the time you wear it. To work and back—then take it off, girl!

Other References:


1/27/2016 8:00:00 AM
Jenn Ryan
Written by
Jenn Ryan is a health and wellness extraordinaire who's fascinated by secret truths. She was last photographed at a tea shop in Washington DC wearing way too much glitter.
View Full Profile Website: http://www.thegreenwritingdesk.com/

You had me until you got to the sagging part. Your pectorals have nothing to do with sagging. Ligaments in your breasts are in charge of that, not muscles. Your actual breasts are on top of your muscles.
Posted by Lisa
It is hard sometimes to find a non-underwire bra that is as cute as the others. Tip - I buy underwire and make a tiny cut in the end and pull the wires out!! Same cute bra, less restrictive, and no one will ever notice that it used to have a wire. :)
Posted by Andrea W.
My sister and I are good examples I would think. We are in our early 60's. I only wear a bra when I am in public. I wore a lose when when I used to work. Any time I could get that damn bra off, I would. My sister who is same size wore underwire and the tightest and sexiest she could fine. She still did after she quit work till she developed breast cancer. It does not run in our families. We were shocked! I am sending this article to my husband cause he tells me an old lady should not go bra less, hence only reason I wear one is when we go somewhere (sometimes not then either if the top is right)
Posted by Renee Martin
I am 66 and a DDD in size and also live in a subtropical climate. If I go without a bra I get raw and quite painful sores under the girls. I wear a bra all day but I do have an extender on it to leave it looser and not so binding. I also roll a clean washcloth and place it up above the lower band to absorb moisture and change it a couple of times a day. Doing both of those lets me still have support and avoid the lesions. I bought multipacks of cheap ones for that purpose.
Posted by Tlyna
Um, if not wearing a bra helps the breasts NOT to sag then how come all those gazillions of photos we've all seen over decades of women in cultures where not wearing a bra is common are - pretty much as saggy looking as the rest of us, especially once we've gotten older, been pregnant, nursed babies, etc? Theories are theories and believe what you want, but I for one am not believing this sag/no sag theory re bra wear.
Posted by Wisconsin
I have very heavy breast and extremely sensitive skin under the band. Any latex bands will cause such irritation that 1 need to use 2 special creams.
I have found all cotton bras. Be careful because a lot of bras that say all cotton, really aren’t. The band is latex. Mine are 100% cotton. They may not give the perfect support but I get what I need!
Posted by Beth
Best thing I ever did was to have breast reduction surgery...given cancer risk reduction it did not cost me anything (yes, I did have insurance). Yes, still wear bra out and about...but so liberating...and reduced likelihood of breast cancer....yes, my mother died from such......
Posted by Sally
I wear a regular (non-underwire) bra because my cup size is so large (J) which is hard to find in any bra much less one without underwire. Good luck trying to find a sports bra that will fit that size. My breasts are very heavy, so add the straps digging into my shoulders and you've got a recipe for pain in every way. Except for back pain: I can't claim a need for breast reduction surgery.
Posted by Pat
Try wearing bathing suit tops— much more comfortable and no construction. You can stop off at beach or pool after work too!
Posted by Pat
I have not worn "typical" bras for decades. My natural inclination is to go without a bra, I have tried to, but for health reasons, I cannot. Instead, I wear cotton sports bras. Since my early teens, gravity overpowered my muscle's ability to hold my bust up. I was active and somewhat underweight for my size. My breasts were waaay oversized for my age and build. As a result, despite an active lifestyle, working with horses, lifting weights, running etc. my breasts have sagged since I was thirteen. I hated wearing bras and constantly was in trouble for it. I live in a subtropical climate. I have constant difficulty with my skin under my breasts breaking down due to to constant humidity present. I have to wear a cotton sports bra and cornstarch powder in order to keep the girls dry. Otherwise I have palm-sized bloody, very painful skin lesions. I have considered breast reduction on occasion but have never had the money or insurance to have it done. I am in my 60's now, and have learned to live with it. Most of the time I can control my skin issues, but as soon as I miss a day or two of not maintaining this regiem, my skin begins to slough off. How many other women have this issue?
Posted by LoisAnneMT
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