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Bras and breast cancer risk

Is there a link between breast cancer and the type of bra you wear?

No, there is no scientific evidence to prove that any kind of bra can cause cancer. Some people have claimed that under wired bras cause breast cancer by blocking the fine tubes of the lymphatic system under the arm. The idea is that this stops the normal drainage of the breast tissues, making toxins gather in the breast and resulting in cancer. You would need to wear a bra that was painfully and unbearably tight to have any effect on your lymphatic system.

One book suggests that this theory explains the high rate of breast cancer in western cultures and the low rates in the developing world, where women are perhaps less likely to wear bras. There are no scientific studies that back up this claim. There are also many differences between Western and developing countries' lifestyles that could contribute to breast cancer risk. Much of the research in this area has concentrated on differences in diet between different countries and cultures.

Constriction or applying pressure to an area of the body does not make normal cells become cancerous. There is a lot of information about how cancer starts and grows in the section about cancer.

We don't know exactly what causes breast cancer, but there are a number of well known risk factors. These include having a strong family history of the disease and getting older. There is a lot more information about the risks and causes of breast cancer, and possible protective factors in our breast cancer section.

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Updated: 18 April 2013