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BraFAQs

Aren't bras GOOD for my breasts?
But women have worn bras forever...right?
Do bras cause breast cancer?
Do bras cause fibrocystic disease?
But I wear a bra so my breasts won't sag...
Why do my breasts hurt at the end of the day?
Why are my breasts painful just before my period?
Should I wear a bra when I exercise? My breasts bounce a lot.
My breasts are HUGE. I couldn't possibly go without a bra!
What will my boss say if my nipples show?
How can I keep my breasts healthy?

Aren't bras GOOD for my breasts? (top)

Many women believe that their breasts are healthier in bras. That's simply not true.

I have never seen a manufacturer cite any health benefit from wearing bras. Searching medical literature, I find nothing supporting a health benefit from wearing bras. (In fact, if any manufacturer will provide a list of proven health benefits from wearing bras, I'll publish it on this web site)

Those same manufacturers say that 80% of women wear bras that are too tight. But women choose bras that are tight because they think their breasts need "support."

Healthy breasts don't need "support." Noses don't, either. Or ears. Or arms. If you put your left arm in a sling for six weeks, on the first morning of the seventh week, you'd need "support" for that arm, because it would have lost all muscle tone.

I do see some reasons, for some women, to wear sports bras when excercising. I'm not talking about very tight sports bras. Many women say that after they've gone bra free for a few months, they don't wear sports bras, even when engaged in serious exercise like tennis or jogging.

Bottom line: Breasts need to move. To jiggle. If yours are being slammed around during vigorous exercise, causing pain, then you need to wait until your breasts have recovered from years of bra-wearing before you can go completely bra free during strenuous exercise. Just as pubescent teen girls' breasts were "trained" in training bras, to need support, yours can be trained to no longer need support.

Some women have reported that exercising on mini-trampolines, bra free, helped them recovered from fibrocystic disease, monthly breast fullness, and tenderness.

Women who have had breast implants do not need to wear bras after the initial healing period. In fact bras will deform breasts that have implants.

If you stop wearing a bra, you may have temporary breast discomfort

Some women who throw their bras away find that they have increased breast pain for a few days. This is most common among women with larger breasts. Give your breasts time to adjust to being bra free.

But women have worn bras forever...right? (top)

No. Women have been wearing bras only about 80 years.

Flapper StyleThe bra was invented in the early 1920s, at the beginning of the "flapper" era. Those original bras were designed to flatten breasts, to enhance the tube-like "boy look" the flapper styles demanded.

Before that, they wore corsets. Around that time, male fashion designers like Paul Poiret told women to discard their corsets and wear bras on top and girdles on the bottom. (In 1911, Poiret introduced the hobble skirt, that freed women's hips but restricted their ankles. Poiret boasted, "I freed the bust and I hobbled the legs.")

As late as a few decades ago, physicians told women they needed to wear girdles to "hold their organs in place" - advice no more sound than the claim today that women need bras to "support" their breasts.

Underwire bras have gone in and out of fashion in the past 80 years. The Wonder Bra (underwired uplift with special padding to produce more cleavage) became popular in America in the mid-1990s.

Today, breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer that women die from. Read more about this in the section on bras and breast cancer.

Do bras cause breast cancer? (top)

Today, breast cancer is the second most common kind of cancer women die from.

We must always be cautious about jumping to conclusions. Just because two things happen simultaneously doesn't mean one caused the other.

In pinning down suspicions about bras and breast cancer, I suspect we're about where we were in 1950 with our suspicions about cigarette smoke and lung cancer.

It took 30 years of research before the dots were finally connected between tobacco smoke and lung cancer.

(Individual physicians noticed an association in the early 1930s. Yet physicians were still promoting cigarette smoking well into the 1950s. The U.S. Army was still distributing free cigarettes in C Rations in 1961. The Surgeon General's report citing a probable link beween cigarette smoking and lung cancer wasn't published until 1964 - when the American Cancer Society finally got on the bandwagon. Not until 1996 did a tobacco company lose a court case linking tobacco smoke with lung cancer.)

Fortunately, bras are not addictive like nicotine. We can throw them away with few withdrawal symptoms.

I refuse to risk my breasts to make someone else's fashion statement

For myself, I refuse to wait 30-40 years for the definitive double-blind studies on bras and cancer. I base my concerns about bras and breast cancer on observations by researchers who've compared breast cancer rates in women who wore bras, against women who didn't - and on my own knowledge of how the body rids itself of toxins.

One study, done by Singer and Grismaijer, suggested that women who wear bras 24 hours a day may have more than a 100-fold greater incidence of breast cancer, compared to those who don't wear bras. They wrote a book called Dressed to Kill to explain their theories to the lay public.

I stopped wearing bras many years before this book was published. Because my family has a high incidence of breast cancer, I have been more keenly focused on this disease than I otherwise might have been.

Medical research connects fibrocystic cysts with increased rates of breast cancer

I base my concerns on personal observation of patients with fibrocystic disease, who obtained dramatic improvement without surgery - simply by taking my advice to get rid of their bras. There are at least 30 peer-reviewed articles making the connection between cysts and increased rates of breast cancer. If not wearing a bra reduces fibrocystic disease, this is a no-brainer.

It could be a combination of genes, toxins, poor nutrition and bras

Bear in mind, that during the same period when women have worn bras, they've also been exposed to thousands of previously-unknown toxins in our environment.

I think we'll find that toxins are a major cause, but bras inhibit our breasts from getting rid of the toxins.

Follow me through this, step by step...it's not complicated:

  • We live in a world that is increasingly polluted; many of these environmental toxins are in our bodies.
  • Many of these toxins have estrogenic effects.
  • Most of these toxins are stored in our body fat.
  • Breasts are primarily made of fat. It surrounds our breast tissue.
  • Each of us has a different capacity to clear these toxins out of our fat and our bodies. Studies suggest that some individual women's bodies can detoxify these substances and get rid of them 500 times more efficiently than others. Quite a range.
  • Toxins are carried out of the breasts by the lymphatic system. Breasts are loaded with lymphatic tissue. The lymphatic system doesn't have a "pump" like the heart. Movement and massage help move toxins along our lymphatic system.
  • Anything that slows down the clearing of these toxins will increase an individual's risk of developing symptoms and/or disease.
  • Bras which restrict movement of the breasts, appear to increase congestion in the breasts, and slow down clearance of toxins from the breasts will increase the rate that women develop breast diseases. Why? Because the toxins remain concentrated in otherwise healthy tissue for much longer.
  • I'm convinced that the longer women wear tight restrictive garments, the faster the damage will progress.

So go bra free. Or wear a less restrictive bra. Let your breasts move and jiggle. Let your breasts detoxify themselves more freely.

About genes: "Inheriting" breast cancer

We used to think that the risk of most cancers was determined by your genes.

But, today we know that 95% of cancers are due to environmental causes (including food and tobacco products). Not genes.

Even if you have the "breast cancer gene", which most women do not, it is the interaction between your genes and your environment that determines whether or not you get breast cancer and when you get it. Possibly up to 12% of breast cancers can be linked to the breast cancer gene.

Breast cancer is the final stage of years of ongoing damage to the breasts from exposure to toxins and an impaired or overwhelmed immune system.

The bottom line

It comes down to:

  • The foods you eat and drink.
  • The toxins that you eat, breathe, and absorb through your skin.
  • The toxic byproducts of the breakdown of medications.
  • The balance of estrogens and progeserone in your own body.
  • Lack of proper nutrients to power your immune system and your detoxifying system.
  • Mechanical constriction of the lymphatic channels: Read: bras, which constrict movement.

All of these may contribute to whether or not you will develop a disease, in this case breast cancer.

You can't avoid all the toxins. But you can avoid the bras. If the risk is 100 times greater, or even just 25 times greater, wearing a bra, getting rid of tight bras, is not rocket science.

If your feet hurt, you get shoes that fit. If your breasts, or back, or neck, or shoulders hurt, either find a bra that doesn't constrict, or "better yet" get yourself out of the harness society forces you to wear.

Hot breasts

Breast cancers are hotter than the surrounding breast tissues.

Warmer breasts may promote the more rapid development of breast cancer.

Our bodies are equipped with an exquisite system for maintaining exactly the right temperature in every part. When artificial devices thwart that system, bad things happen.

For example, we know that testicles that are warmer do not produce as much sperm or testosterone and in fact produce more estrogens. Boxer shorts are better than briefs if you want to get your wife pregnant. (About 50 years passed after this discovery before most men in Western Civilization threw away their jockey shorts.)

Bras increase the temperature of breast tissue. Tighter and heavily padded bras are the worst offenders.

Do bras cause fibrocystic disease? (top)

Fibrocystic breast disease is a sign of too much estrogenic effect and toxin buildup in the breasts.

If you have lumpy, bumpy tender breasts or have had breast biopsies, go bra free or wear a less restrictive bra. Breast cysts and fibrotic changes occur because of the accumulation of estrogen and toxins in your breasts.

Some of these cysts contain a high concentration of potassium (not sodium).

These cysts can concentrate natural estrogens and other steroid hormones in themÑup to 500-fold higher levels than are found in your blood. This promotes more cysts and more damage.

You cannot tell if you have these bad cysts by touch or ultrasound or mammograms or routine lab tests.

Excess estrogen contributes to breast cancer.

I advise all women with fibrocystic breast disease to get out of their bras, because tight bras interfere with the breasts' natural way of getting rid of toxins..

If a patient continues to have tenderness, I prescribe natural progesterone, because she is estrogen dominant and has inadequate progesterone. Many of my patients donÕt have to go this far, once they get out of their bras.

Within three months of being bra free, most women will notice that their cysts are getting smaller, softer and less painful. Few develop new cysts.

But I wear a bra so my breasts won't sag... (top)

Sorry, bras might make your breasts sag more.

You have ligaments in your breasts. They are designed to hold your breasts up. If you wear a bra for years - or, worse yet, wear a bra 24 hours a day for years - these ligaments will atrophy (get weaker and smaller).

The good news: If you stop wearing a bra these ligaments should get stronger and you should find your breasts perkier within about about three months.

Even if you have huge breasts...

Even if you have huge breasts, you should see significant improvement.

But, you say, someone told you that breasts don't have ligaments. Not so.

In nearly a quarter-century of watching patients free their breasts from artificial supports, I've personally seen the results. Try it.

If you stop wearing a bra, you may have temporary breast pain

Some women who throw their bras away find that they have increased breast pain for a few days. This is most common among women with larger breasts. Give your breasts more time to adjust to being bra free.

Why do my breasts hurt at the end of the day? (top)

Breasts that are tender or painful at the end of the day when you take your bra off are a symptom of breast illness. The same goes for red marks due to bra straps and underwires.

Listen to your body. Your breasts are trying to tell you that they are unhappy in the bra you've worn all day.

The pain may be coming from restricted circulation, or from the collection of toxins - your own estrogens or outside pollutants - that have been trapped in your breasts all day. The answer is to go bra free or to wear a less restrictive bra. (My choice is no bra at all. After all, one woman's less restrictive bra is another woman's pain-maker.) Breast massage may help reduce the pain faster.

Many women also find that headaches, or shoulder, neck and back pain improve when they are bra free. In one study, 79% of patients decided to remove breast weight from their shoulders, because it got rid of their symptoms.

Women who chronically have tender breasts right before their periods have an increased risk of breast cancer.

If you stop wearing a bra, you may have temporary breast pain

Some women who throw their bras away find that they have increased breast pain for a few days. This is most common among women with larger breasts. Give your breasts time to adjust to being bra free.

Why are my breasts painful just before my period? (top)

Breasts that are painful just before your period are a sign of too much estrogenic effect and breast illness.

Go bra free or wear less restrictive bras or camisoles. If you still get swollen tender breasts just before your period, talk to your doctor about using natural progesterone during the 12-14 days before your period. Many women make too little progesterone, which contributes to PMS, ovarian cysts, and tender breasts before your period.

Women with painful breasts right before their periods have an increased risk of breast cancer.

If you stop wearing a bra, you may have temporary breast pain

Some women who throw their bras away find that they have increased breast pain for a few days. This is most common among women with larger breasts. Give your breasts time to adjust to being bra free.

Should I wear a bra when I exercise? My breasts bounce a lot. (top)

Breasts like to move.

Movement promotes lymphatic flow. Lymphatic flow carries toxins out of your breasts.

Women who exercise have lower rates of breast cancer.

Underwires and restrictive bras limit the natural movement of your breasts.

Obviously, if your breasts complain about being slammed up and down, consider sports bras when you do high-impact exercise. Over time, you may find that your breasts will recover from years of bra-wearing, and you can exercise without a sports bra.

The simple test is: If it hurts, it's not beneficial.

The website Alkalize for Health has an interesting article on strengthening breast tissue using a mini-trampoline.

Bottom line: Women evolved bra free. They ran. Bra free, They exercised. Bra free. They climbed trees. Bra free. Chased things. Bra free. Bounced up and down. Bra free.

Your body is designed to support itself, without mechanical contraptions. It would be very difficult to do anything medically harmful to yourself by working out without a mechanical support device like a sports bra. And exercise without a bra should not contribute to sag. Period.

My breasts are HUGE. I couldn't possibly go without a bra! (top)

Sorry, bras might make your breasts sag more.

You have ligaments in your breasts. They are designed to hold your breasts up. If you wear a bra for years - or, worse yet, wear a bra 24 hours a day for years - these ligaments will atrophy (get weaker and smaller).

The good news: If you stop wearing a bra these ligaments should get stronger and you should find your breasts perkier within about about three months.

Even if you have huge breasts...

Even if you have huge breasts, you should see significant improvement.

But, you say, someone told you that breasts don't have ligaments. Not so.

In nearly a quarter-century of watching patients free their breasts from artificial supports, I've personally seen the results. Try it.

If you stop wearing a bra, you may have temporary breast pain

Some women who throw their bras away find that they have increased breast pain for a few days. This is most common among women with larger breasts. Give your breasts more time to adjust to being bra free.

What will my boss say if my nipples show? (top)

Your boss should say absolutely nothing. But I'm not dumb enough to think that Western Civilization's centuries-long fascination/disgust/lust/disapproval of women's' nipples will disappear in a moment.

It's nobody's business but your own, if you choose to go bra free. Don't let someone else's dress code compromise the health of your breasts.

Nipples are not sex organs, nor are they filthy, nor are they disgusting

Let's get something straight: Nipples are not sex organs. They are nutrient delivery systems. Unlike men's nipples, which for some reason are quite acceptable, fully bared on the beach or at the park, and which are totally useless evolutionary leftovers, women's nipples are valuable, functional organs that have nurtured countless generations of babies.

Nipples are not filthy. If they were, babies wouldn't like them so much.

(But women have been arrested, in this decade, for breast-feeding infants in public in America. How sad.)

Nipples are not sinful. God gave them to us.

Nipples can be arousing. (One reason why some insecure male bosses don't want you to show them.)

Nipples in the workplace

That said, in many working environments, bosses don't want their employees' nipples to show. (And in some places, they don't want women's legs to show without stockings, or they want the women to wear black, or whatever.)

Did I say sexual harassment? Darn right, I did. But you may not want to risk your career to prove a point.

Bottom line is, most workplace dress codes are written by insecure people, to control the lives of others who make them feel more insecure. Or, the powers-that-be recognize that the customers (who, I wish, would re-think their priorities) may object. So you have to conform.

I'm lucky. I don't have a boss. If my nipples show through my clothes, they show. Hundreds of letters from my patients confirm they don't care what I wear or what I look like, because I care about them and they care more about me than they care about whether my nipples are apparent today.

But, I'm also not stupid. If I'm scheduled to testify as a medical expert in court, I wear a suit. I conform. (But if I'm on the disco floor, I lead with my sternum!)

Several weeks ago, as a guest on a radio talk show, I wore exactly one layer of cloth between my nipples and the outside world. The talk show host was startled when I said I didn't have a bra on. Lesson: Your nipples don't show as much as you think they do.

But - n the repressive society in which many of us live - obviously visible nipples will get you in trouble in the workplace.

In Western Society, we've settled on the bra as a way to shield irrationally-sensitive observers from nipple phobia. That phobia is theirs, not yours.

Covering the nipples they don't like

If you trash your bra, you may have to find another way to hide your God-given assets, so as not to offend the easily offended.

Try camisoles. A camisole under a sweater will hide all but the most aggressive nipples.

If you're going for one layer of cloth only, try breathable surgical tape. Put a small patch on each nipple. To avoid skin irritation, put the tape on vertically one day, horizontally the next. Brands include Dermaform, Dermalight, Medipore Soft Cloth Surgical Tape, and Cover-Roll stretch by Beiersdorf AG.

Often, I wear a camisole with an over-blouse: A long-sleeved shirt that gives me a loose second layer.

Obviously, a suit jacket solves all problems.

A thick sweater, perhaps with a loose camisole underneath to prevent scratching, also works.

And there are bras that are less restrictive. They've available. One brand name that many women like is Barely There.

Be creative. Throw a scarf around your neck and drape it over your chest. Wear a shirt with pockets.

Sometimes, a bra is the only way to go

Many women feel more comfortable wearing bras in public because they either minimize or accentuate their breasts with bras.

Worst case, if you're in a situation where only a bra will do, then wear one if that makes you comfortable. But: You make that decision. Don't let someone else make it for you. And, the very minute the event is over, get that bra off. Bras are not good for breasts.

Okay. Somebody said bras are sexy. Yep. Many men simply love to take a woman's bra off. Great. Here's where Victoria's Secret and I meet on common ground. If my guy wants me to wear a sexy bra so he can take it off, just watch my smoke!

The power of clothing

We wear clothes because they give us the power to decide what we will show, to whom, and when. Women use clothes to lengthen the chase and control the pace.

Short skirts make your legs look longer. Small bikini tops make your breasts look larger. Clothes, carefully chosen, give you power to influence how those around you, react to you.

That power is one reason why insecure people want to control what you wear.

I blurted something out during a radio interview a few mornings ago: "Bosses want women to wear bras because we live in a repressive, puritanical society." I'll stand behind that. Nipples scare insecure peopleÑbut they don't scare babies.

How can I keep my breasts healthy? (top)

Listen to your breasts. Tender breasts are not healthy. Lumpy, bumpy breasts are not healthy.

Go bra free as much as you can.

Wear less restrictive bras when you need to. (Try not to need to.) Some manufacturers have minimally restrictive bras that let your breasts move more naturally and donÕt cause breast congestion. Well, maybe.

Try camisoles. Really. Try camisoles. They are sooooo natural. You feel soooo free in a camisole! Camisoles allow the most breast movement, and therefore the most optimal lymphatic circulation.

Wear sports bras when you engage in high impact exercise, only if you experience breast pain. Try to train your breasts away from needing mechanical support. What is uncomfortable after one day of bra freedom is likely to be quite different from what is comfortable after six months of bra abstinence. Remember: Breasts are natural. Bras are not.

Only wear underwires and more restrictive bras when you really need them for a particular "look" on special occasions.

Get out of your bra as soon as possible after work. One study suggested that women who wear restrictive bras for more than 12 hours a day had an increased rate of breast cancer. Those who wore bras 24 hours a day showed a 125-fold increased risk, compared with non-bra wearers.

Use surgical tape to flatten your nipples if you feel the need to hide them. Brands include Dermaform, Dermalight, Medipore Soft Cloth Surgical Tape, and Cover-Roll stretch by Beiersdorf AG. (I feel so weird suggesting to modern women that they may "need" to hide their nipples. Didn't we get "liberated" about 30 years ago?)

Massage your breasts when they are sore.

Exercise.

Normal natural hormones

Estrogen and progesterone are the two primary hormones affecting breast health.

Once we go through puberty and start making estrogen and progesterone on a cyclic basis, Mother Nature tries to keep these two hormones in balance. Estrogen excess, or estrogen dominance, has been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

Have children and breast feed them. This changes the breast tissue short term into breast tissue that is more resistant to breast cancer.

If you choose to take hormones, take the lowest dose of natural hormones delivered directly to your bloodstream, if you can. Your best choice is using creams and patches on your skin.

Natural progesterone is the only female hormone that can be taken by mouth safely. (But there are proven health benefits from oral contraceptives, such as reduced incidence of some other forms of cancer. Another dilemma.)

Avoid toxins

Avoid toxins. For example, women who consistently drink more than two servings of alcohol each day, significantly increase their risk of breast cancer. (But they decrease their risk of heart disease. What a dilemma!) The alcohol slows down the clearance of estrogens from your body. So, your breasts are exposed to a higher level of estrogen. Excess estrogen, relative to the amount of progesterone, causes breast cancer. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration considers estrogen to be a carcinogen!

Many of the toxins in our environment and food have estrogenic effects, so Mother Nature has a hard time maintaining a healthy balance of estrogen vs. progesterone.

Babies born to mothers who receive an IV (plastic IV bottle and line) during delivery have higher amounts of estrogenic plasticizers in their blood than babies born to mothers who do not get IVs.

Apparently because of xeno-estrogen, young girls get larger breasts at a younger age than they ever did in history. And women have more fibrocystic breast disease.

And maybe for the same reason, breast cancer continues to increase in frequency and to affect younger women.

Insulin also affects breast health

The higher your insulin level, the more your immune system is tipped toward making more inflammation in your body.

The more inflammation, the faster you will develop a disease. Women who are at risk of breast cancer who are overweight and insulin resistant (on the verge of developing diabetes) will develop breast cancer sooner than those who are not insulin resistant.

For more information about breast health, read the section on Breast Health at www.VaughanIntegrative.com.

 

Disclaimer
The opinions expressed on this website are those of Elizabeth R. Vaughan, M.D., F.A.A.E.M. Many physicians - perhaps most physicians - and the American Cancer Society assert that no link has been positively demonstrated between bras and breast cancer. (But we waited 50 years for someone to demonstrate a positive link between cigarettes and lung cancer). Read the medical research page for a partial listing of relevant research upon which Dr. Vaughan bases her opinions.

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