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A bra 'does not' increase risk of getting cancer

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Sarah Morrissey at the launch of the Arnotts Autumn Winter 2014 Lingerie Collections in their Henry Street Store; bras do not increase cancer risk says new report. Photo: Kieran Harnett

Sarah Morrissey at the launch of the Arnotts Autumn Winter 2014 Lingerie Collections in their Henry Street Store; bras do not increase cancer risk says new report. Photo: Kieran Harnett

Kieran Harnett

Sarah Morrissey at the launch of the Arnotts Autumn Winter 2014 Lingerie Collections in their Henry Street Store; bras do not increase cancer risk says new report. Photo: Kieran Harnett

It has been a debate that has raged for decades but scientists now believe they can answer the question on whether wearing a bra increases your risk of cancer.

The answer is "no", they say.

A study of about 1,500 post-menopausal women found those who used the garment were no more likely to develop the disease than their braless counterparts.

The debate has raged for more than 20 years after scientists pointed out breast cancer was unknown for thousands of years until women began donning bras.

Then, just like the corset, which was proven to cause deaths, the bra became a popular replacement, and deaths from breast cancer increased.

The cancer-causing theory suggests a constricting bra, especially one with underwire, can block the drainage of waste products through the lymphatic glands, inhibiting the disposal of toxins, leading to more exposure to carcinogenic chemicals.

A previous study of about 3,000 women found among bra users, larger cup size was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer among post-menopausal women, but was partly accounted for by obesity.

A 2005 book entitled Dressed To Kill: The Link between Breast Cancer and Bras also struck fear in the hearts of bra-wearers and lingerie manufacturers by supporting the idea they cause poisons to accumulate in breast tissue.

So a University of Washington team analysed 1,513 women in the area, aged between 55 and 74, just over a thousand of whom had been diagnosed with either IDC (invasive ductal carcinoma) or ICL (invasive lobular carcinoma), while the rest were healthy and acted as a control.

A face-to-face interview was carried out with each to investigate potential risk factors including their bra cup and band sizes, the age at which they started regularly wearing a bra, whether they wore underwire bras and the number of hours per day and days per week they wore a bra at different times of their lives.

The team found no evidence of a link between breast cancer risk and bra size, type, or frequency of wearing, reports Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Doctoral student Lu Chen, who led the research, said: "There have been some concerns one of the reasons why breast cancer may be more common in developed countries compared with developing countries is differences in bra wearing patterns.

"No evidence of increased risk emerged."

Health & Living