There is no shortage of opinion from those who say “Yes!” or “No!” Some women question whether it is just a fashion habit, while others see it as an absolute necessity for any number of reasons from providing comfort during athletic pursuits to protection of modesty.
Even researchers have tackled the question and have not come up with firm answers.
It is now considered an urban legend, but in the 1990s there was considerable controversy generated by the book Dressed to Kill as to whether tight bras increased the risk of developing breast cancer by blocking lymphatic drainage which in turn trapped toxins. According to an article in Scientific American reviewing the claim, Dr. Susan Love, author of Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book felt that the myth “comes from the frustration of not knowing what causes the disease, coupled with a desire that the disease should come from the outside, from something a woman can control.” Dr. Love stated flat out, “I don’t think bras—or the lack thereof—are the secret answer.”
Two French dissertation studies conducted at the Université Besançon (Franche-Comté) Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy looked at changes in the breast after subjects stopped wearing a bra (Laetitia Pierrot and Jean-Denis Rouillon’s study looked at 33 women ages 18-25 for one year; Olivier Roussel’s study looked at 50 women ages 18-30 over three years).
Pierrot and Rouillon’s work published in 2003 concluded (translated version), “The wearing of the bra is based more on social and cultural bases than on scientific bases. We questioned the effects of completely stopping wearing a bra on the breast during everyday life and sports… The results of the biometric measurements show an absence of ptosis [drooping], a better firmness of the breast and a development of the muscles neighboring the breast. These clinical changes seem to be related to the reinforcement of the connective tissue and the means of fixity of the breast which have adapted to the new mechanical constraints imposed by stopping the wearing of the bra.”
Roussel’s dissertation published in 2009 concluded, “Stopping the wearing of the bra is well supported in terms of comfort. None of the biometric variables studied are subject to an unfavorable evolution. The tissues composing the breast do not distend despite an increase in breast volume. The breast does not move towards ptosis and is more firm.”
While there has yet to be a published study, Professor Rouillon revealed in a 2013 radio interview that his research remains ongoing, studying 330 women over 15 years, finding that “women who never wore bras had nipples on average seven millimeters higher in relation to their shoulders each year than regular bra users.” In a subsequent interview with Reuters, Rouillon offered less promising news for older women, “But a middle-aged women, overweight, with 2.4 children? I’m not at all sure she’d benefit from abandoning bras.” So far, his research remains focused on 18-35 year-old women.
In this DNews video, Laci looks at whetherProfessor Rouillon’s argument holds any weight or if it’s just full of hot air.
More recently, researchers are looking at the effect of both aging and a tendency toward increased BMI on women.
- Researchers at the Biomechanics Research Laboratory, University of Wollongong in Australia have recently concluded, “Aging is associated with a significant decline in breast skin thickness and elasticity, which is likely to reduce anatomical breast support. Women might therefore benefit from increased external breast support (i.e. a more supportive bra) with increasing age.”
- A researcher and surgeon from the New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine and Westchester Medical Center Health Center looked at the magnification factor that breast weight exerts on the spine. He published findings that a woman with a breast size of 36D would have breasts that exerted 24 pounds to the spine, whereas a woman with a breast size of 36H would experience 52 pounds of force on the spine.
- The question of whether there is a correlation between wearing a bra and breast cancer has resurfaced with a recent article in Advances in Oncology Research and Treatments by researchers in Brazil who presented findings demonstrating a correlation between wearing a tight bra for several hours per day and an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
For now, the answer to the question of whether women should wear bras or not remains as varied as women themselves!
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