Follow up to “Ditch it: The bra”

It may seem out of place that I cited a study finding a correlation between breast cancer and length of time that women wear bras, after I wrote a whole post imploring you to question correlations and figure out what else might be the cause of the effect. 

In gathering evidence to make a decision, it is important to look at all evidence presented to you and examine it.  I wanted to find out more about bras and breast health, and my research took me to that study, which found that the longer a woman wore a bra (up to 24 hours per day), the higher the correlation of breast cancer. 

Following my own advice to question the correlation, I should explore some other causative factors that might affect the reduced rate of breast cancer among women who less frequently confine their breasts to a bra.  So, what could bra-wearing women be doing differently than bra-less women? 

Perhaps bra-less women take a “crunchier” approach to life, like I do, and avoid toxic chemical products, GMOs in their diet, and over-medicating. 

Women who wear their bras for extended periods may be working long hours in the work world and possibly sitting at desks (or in airplanes or cars) for long hours, not getting very much movement (and therefore less lymphatic circulation).

Women who wear constricting bras for long hours are probably not breastfeeding (harder to get access if you have to snap and unsnap or push up a tight bra), and breastfeeding helps to develop the lymphatic system fully.

Wearing a bra may change the temperature of your breasts which could impact temperature-dependent hormone levels and cancer development.

All of these reasons could impact the development of breast cancer. 

Correlational data is necessary – if we can’t see how two things interact, how will we know which questions to ask next?  We need to look at the positive correlation between bra wearing and breast cancer and ask why?  Why is there a higher rate of breast cancer in women who wear their bras for long periods of time?  Why is the breast cancer rate of women who do not wear a bra comparable to the breast cancer rate of men?  What is different, and why?

To me, (and feel free to disagree, because I would love to learn more and I welcome your differences in opinions), this correlation makes sense. 

Bras mean restricted movement.
Restricted movement means reduced lymphatic circulation.
Reduced lymphatic circulation means higher toxin buildup.

That makes sense to me.  Does it make sense to you? 

Certainly other factors can and should be explored, but the premise of that logic is sound.  I believe that further investigation will only maintain and solidify the link between breast cancer and breast restriction. 

This is not to say that I believe bras are evil, or that bras will give you cancer.  I began this information journey after some light reading about bras and breast health and I decided to give being bra-free a try.  It’s working for me.  I am not 100% comfortable being bra-free all the time but the evidence I have found gives me encouragement and resolve that even though they aren’t pasted upwards in the firm “security” of bra cups, and I may not be as aesthetically pleasing to all those strangers I’m apparently supposed to impress, my breasts are healthy. 

That said, I’m letting a few bras stick around just in case, and I will be looking into some looser-fitting cotton bras (a la the comments from the original post) for moments when I would feel more comfortable in a bra.  I will still be wearing sports bras when I exercise, because I am not comfortable with the idea of being bra-less at the gym.  If I wear a bra, I will wear it for as short a time as possible.

I also want to address the claim that bras help your breasts from sagging.  Sorry, but gravity is going to affect your breasts no matter what, and I think bras actually make a saggier breast.  As I mentioned in the original post, wearing a bra means training your breasts to need artificial support.  Allowing your breasts to just move freely will improve the tone of the chest muscles associated with your breasts.  However, your breasts themselves are primarily fat and they will never be “toned.”  Just breasts. 

The bottom line is that your bra decision is up to you.  If you are not comfortable going without a bra, you do not have to go without a bra just because I wrote a blog saying so.  If you have been thinking about going without a bra, I hope these two posts have encouraged you to give it a try and see how you like it.  If you don’t wear a bra and feel pressured to wear one, I hope that my posts have given you the motivation to not care about that pressure and continue free-boobin’ it.  I just want you to be aware of the risks associated with bras, and I want you to understand that bras are a recent invention and a billion dollar industry. 

You don’t have to wear one if you don’t want to!


11 thoughts on “Follow up to “Ditch it: The bra”

  1. Bravo! I’ve been thinking this for years! The restrictiveness of a bra cannot be good for breast health. I choose not to wear one most of the time. If I do wear one, it is a sports bra and for as little time as possible! Glad to hear there are other people who agree with my line of thinking!

  2. Because of your first post, I decided it made sense to ditch my bra. Even if SOME of the data is right, I will be ahead of the game. I am a 40D, so I am a little self conscious. I need some coverage at the office, so I bought a “bralette” and a couple of Bali brand bras like the Barely There (which are too small for me). Tested the bralette today, and what a difference! No boning cutting into my underarm, and it is SO much cooler! I live in FL, and the foam bra I was wearing makes me sweat. My posture was better, too. I go braless at home all the time, so I hope this intermediate step will work for me. Thanks for the thought-provoking posts.

    1. Excellent, I am glad you are trying it out! I should check out the bralettes. Thank you so much for your comment, it means a lot to know that someone was helped by my pile of internet words 🙂

  3. I’m like the new look!

    My mother in law just had a double mastectomy. She hated bras and hardly ever wore them. She is about 75. She had stomach cancer in her 30’s.

    One thing she used religiously is deodorant, dove. Lots of it. I believe it is cancerous, there are studies, and even the doctor at the hospital had said she believes it was a factor. The glands under the arm are very important. The makers of the deodorants say that as none of the toxic ingredients can be absorbed into the blood stream they pose no risk, but this is wrong.

    She still uses the dove.

    She also eats a lot of salt and red meat. One other thing to note though, is that she’s very fit, has no other problems.

    Anyway, I agree with you about the bras, I have worn nothing but sport bras with no support, they are like wearing a snug little top under everything.

    There is also a thought that women have weak chest muscles which can cause sagging, stronger chest muscles means better circulation, and the ability for the breasts to support themselves.

    You can see if you have OK chest muscles by standing in front of a mirror, with a bra on (sports bra is best, no wire). Put your hands together in a praying pose, hands in front of your face. Then watch the breasts, and push your hands together as hard as you can. Your breasts should move up about an inch or 2 inches. If they do not move, it means that you have very weak chest muscle. There are many exercises that are good for that. Lisfing small weights, housework, lifting a child etc..

    Sorry for the long comment!


    1. Also, I’m sorry to hear about your mother in law. I definitely think deodorant causes a lot of issues. I no longer use commercial deodorant. I hope she is doing well with recovery!

  4. Caitlin,

    I wanted to say thank you for these two posts. I haven’t visited your site in about a month and now I am kicking myself! I have never in my life considered not wearing a bra (it’s just what you do, particularly for a 30FF like me). Why have I slavishly followed this ‘rule’ from the age of 13? Now I love the idea of a bralette or similar, as I find stairs uncomfortable in my braless state. Anything that allows more comfort & circulation but still provides a modicum of support/coverage sounds ideal.

    So why am I kicking myself? I just bought 3 new bras last week….

    Lesson learned – I am signing up for your email updates!

    Thanks again!

    P.s. I found the candle/karma incident HILARIOUS, thank you for sharing! I bet your karma is pretty shiny : )

    1. So glad to hear you will be getting email updates! 🙂

      I have been bra-free for about a month now and I really am finding it more comfortable than ever. It’s crazy what one garment’s removal can do to shift your paradigm of fashion and comfort. I’ll be working on a photo collage of outfits to give some bra-free fashion tips 🙂 even if you did just buy some, maybe you could try going bra-free one day a week?

      Also, yes, my karma seems to be fine, but I did NOT ever burn that candle!

      Thanks for reading!

  5. Very interesting information! Reading about the lymphatic circulation reminded me of something I’ve been doing for awhile — dry body brushing. When done correctly it is supposed to improve lymphatic circulation, plus it makes your skin nice and soft. Hopefully it does what people claim.

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