It’s unlikely that most women would feel comfortable going braless on a daily basis. But what would you do if it affected your health? The idea that going braless might lower your breast cancer risk is one that’s been bantered around for several years. It seems to have started after a Harvard study showed an increased breast cancer risk in women who wear bras relative to those who go braless on a regular basis. This idea eventually led to the publication of a book entitled, Dressed to Kill, written by two anthropologists who did their own unscientific survey and came to a similar conclusion. In their book, they brought forth various theories and reasons as to why women who don’t wear bras might have a lower breast cancer rate.
How might going braless decrease the risk of breast cancer and should you be concerned if you wear a bra? One theory put forth by the authors of Dressed to Kill as well as other experts is that wearing a bra causes compression of the lymphatic system leading out of the breasts which could impair the drainage of toxins. The idea was also put forth that women who exercise may have a lower risk of breast cancer because exercise increases movement of the breasts, helping to promote better lymphatic flow and elimination of cancer causing toxins. Although this may sound plausible at first, there hasn’t been a study to support these conclusions. Even with the Harvard study that initially sparked the controversy, the results barely reached statistical significance. Plus, even if there were an association, it could be related to other factors such as the fact that larger breasted women are more likely to be overweight and more likely to wear a bra. Obese women are known to have a higher risk of breast cancer.
Although there hasn’t been a recent well controlled study that shows an association between going braless and a reduced risk of breast cancer, some anecdotal evidence suggests that going braless can improve the symptoms of fibrocystic breasts changes. Fibrocystic breast syndrome is a benign syndrome characterized by the formation of numerous breast cysts which fluctuate in size with the menstrual cycle. These can be very uncomfortable for some women and can make a breast self exam difficult.
Should you buy into the unproven theory that going braless reduces your risk of breast cancer? Although there’s no evidence to suggest that forgoing your bra in the name of health is necessary, it might be wise to avoid tight fitting bras with underwires. It might also be healthier to give yourself a break from wearing a bra at night when you’re at home and to avoid wearing a bra to bed.
All in all, as far as what is currently known, there seems no basis for going braless on a regular basis. You can relax and continue to enjoy wearing that pretty bra from Victoria Secrets.