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Bad Chart Thursday: Bra Cancer

Hey, ladies. Maybe you’ve heard that “scientists” want you to stop wearing a bra.

And by “scientists,” I mean this guy.

Apparently, wearing a bra gives you breast cancer, according to breaking news from an intrepid reporter. And by breaking news, I mean studies that don’t actually show this, some that are 20 years old, and by intrepid reporter, I mean ^ that guy.

It all started with a 1991 study, “Breast size, handedness and breast cancer risk,” in the European Journal of Cancer and Clinical Oncology, which found (in part) lower breast cancer risk in premenopausal women who did not wear bras. The researchers suggested that women who do not wear bras probably have smaller breasts and therefore less tissue in which cancer could develop.

But medical anthropologists and husband and wife bra-fighting duo Sydney Ross Singer (see above) and Soma Grismaijer concluded that it was the bra-wearing itself that caused cancer. They then set out to prove this theory through case study research, finding that indeed, women who wear bras are more likely to develop breast cancer. They surmised that this was because the bras, especially the underwires, restrict lymph node circulation so toxins therefore cancer.

So they wrote a book about it, with the nonalarmist title Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras, found a welcome audience in the ALL CAPS email forwarding community but criticism from the scientific community, which pointed out that women with more breast tissue are more likely to develop cancer and need to wear bras and that lymph nodes circulate up, not down toward the underwire. Also what toxins and how cancer and, well, the theory just never really passed the biological plausibility test.

So the authors went on to write and self-publish such titles as

  • Get It Up! Revealing The Simple Surprising Lifestyle That CAUSES . . . Migraines, Alzheimer’s, Glaucoma, Sleep Apnea, Stroke, Impotence & More . . .
  • Get it Out! Eliminating the Cause of Diverticulitis, Kidney Stones, Bladder Infections, Prostate Enlargement, Menopausal Discomfort, Cervical Dysplasia, PMS, and More
  • Get It Off! Understanding the Cause of Breast Pain, Cysts, and Cancer, Illustrated with A Little Breast Play!


And other books that solve all unrelated medical ills with no doubt an abundance of tasteful and not at all inappropriate and disturbing illustrations.

So now that they have single-handedly cured everything by blaming sick people for their lifestyles, why are they dredging up the whole bra topic again?

Perhaps they are downsizing and no longer have room for all the books in their garage. Perhaps the $3,000 cultural deprogramming they offer isn’t getting enough takers.

Or maybe, just maybe, THEY WERE RIGHT ALL ALONG.

In his article for the Hawaii Reporter, Syd lists more studies that PROVE bras cause breast cancer. One, in Chinese, apparently shows a link between sleeping in your bra and getting cancer, and this just can’t be explained away by women having bigger breasts being more likely to sleep in their bras because you can’t prove it’s not the bra and since no studies are proving this, then clearly big cancer organizations are hiding something.

The other study is in Spanish and said something about whales in your bra causing lesions, so I asked Daniela, the managing editor of Escéptica, to check it for me in case there was something to do with breast cancer and I was just missing it. Apparently, the study shows that women going in for breast cancer screening who also wore bras were more likely to have lesions from the bras.

And lesions from tight-fitting clothing = cancer, I guess? Which I think means I have knee-sock cancer, foot cancer, and ring-finger cancer related to pregnancy swelling. Add that to the cancer I probably have from my cell phone and GMOs, and I probably barely have time to create this chart to demonstrate the relative lethality of bra types, based on the measurements I made of constriction and toxins during a tantric underwater visualization session.

Bra lethality

Melanie Mallon

Melanie is a freelance editor and writer living in a small town outside Minneapolis with her husband, two kids, dog, and two cats. When not making fun of bad charts or running the Uncensorship Project, she spends her time wrangling commas, making colon jokes, and putting out random dumpster fires. You can find her on Twitter as @MelMall, on Facebook, and on Instagram.

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  1. Melanie Mallon,

    Off course if there were anything to this “study” it would be front page news, and Bra sales would plummet world wide.

    1. I do wonder how many people are doing what this guy wants and sending their bras to Komen and ACA. They probably got like three bras, if that. This latest article is going around on Facebook, which is why I addressed it, but even if a chunk of people believe it, are they really going to bother to package their bras and pay the shipping? This guy really didn’t think this through on so many levels.

      1. Melanie Mallon

        Well, I bet they would stop wearing bras, and they would probably throw them away.

        1. Yeah, probably. Just as people stopped using anti-perspirant when that cancer myth went around. I don’t know that it really matters either way whether people toss their bras because of this. The real harm is more in not paying attention to the actual risks (as well as the harm of telling women who already have cancer that it is essentially their own fault).

  2. Heyyy, this is similar to the first post I wrote for TS!

    My parents actually prevented me from wearing bras with underwires or padding (this was before Urban Outfitters made this style cool and retro) and I pretty much hated being around people or changing near them, because teasing. I also couldn’t wear most fancy or styled clothes, because all I could wear were large sports bras that were loose and thin.
    High school was a riot.

    1. Excellent post, Kate! I did not see that the first time aorund. I can’t believe that these people are still trying to keep this myth alive. I saw the latest article going around on Facebook and thought, wasn’t this debunked years ago? I wonder if they’ll start reviving the anti-perspirant myth again next.

    1. True. I should have indicated that as the control group. Unless you consider it as the Bra of the Imagination. Like in Cosmos. But with bras. Because science.

  3. The last time I checked people assigned as male at birth are also at a somewhat lower risk of breast cancer, while habitually wearing bras isn’t as yet a common item of daily underwear/lingerie/fashion for men. So correlations for those groups ought to run contrary to the trend. Being trans myself, I noticed a strong 1:1 correlation between wearing bras and having breasts when I started on hormone replacement therapy, so I wonder if that is a factor they perhaps should have considered alongside their bad bra theory. /sarcasm

    1. I can confidently assert that I don’t wear bras and do not have breast cancer (as far as I know.) So… Science!

      P.S. I hope Melanie gets to read all these comments before succumbing to shoe cancer or down jacket cancer (you live somewhere cold, right?), or any of the cancers that are your own damn fault for being alive.

      1. I do in fact live in a cold climate. There is still snow on the ground right now. In APRIL. Which also means I am also much more likely to get moon boot cancer. Especially if I wear thick socks.

        My Internet had cancer yesterday, or I would have responded sooner.

    2. Xanthe, there is no doubt in my mind that they would leap at the chance to blame trans people for their own cancer.

    1. Well, obviously, he is exposing himself to toxins in some other way. If he also wore a bra, he’d clear have double cancer.

  4. This explains why so few men get breast cancer, though. We don’t wear bras. I wonder, should I start going commando to avoid testicular cancer? Inquiring minds want to know.

    1. I’m starting to think any clothing we wear at all could cause cancer, but then what about how much more constricting, say, seatbelts would be if we didn’t have the clothing between the belt and our skin? WE CAN’T WIN.

      1. Wearing clothing causes cancer. But not wearing clothing also causes cancer. Unless you use SPF 100*. Which also causes cancer. Quick, run and hide!. But running* and hiding* causes cancer too! AIEEEIEE!!!

        [*] links to be supplied, but I think we can safely assume this is true because… Science.

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