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Do Bras Cause Breast Cancer? – A Primal Question

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  • Do Bras Cause Breast Cancer? – A Primal Question

    Do Bras Cause Breast Cancer? – A Primal Question: A guy shouldn’t be the one having to address this question publicly. But many women when confronting even the possibility that bras cause breast cancer become, um, let me think about how to put this . . . well here is part of one female reader's Amazon review of the book I'll discuss in this post, not entirely atypical (don't overlook the part about shoes):

    "Never before have I wanted to burn a book until this one. This book made me so angry it took all my control not to toss it across the book store into the nearest trash can. It is disgusting that people feel the need to make money off other people health fears. Next we will be told not to wear shoes or hats for fear of heaven knows what. Not only are the theories unsupported (no pun intended) scientifically I think they have the potential to also cause harm. I am sick of hearing (primarily from men and small breasted women) that consistent bra wearing is a bad thing. If you have never been a size DD or larger then shut up about it. You don't know what you are talking about. Bras are very necessary for those of us unfortunate enough to have such genes. If for example I gave up bra wearing I would also have to give up exercising. As we know a lack of exercise is a contributing factor of many ailments. Is this really a responsible message to be sending to the readers? Bra wearing is NOT a fashion thing. It is a comfort thing. I can't walk down stairs bra-less without severe pain. Going without one for longer than it takes to bathe is NOT an option. This book just gives women one more thing to feel guilty about. Don't waste your time and especially your money on this garbage. "


    Anyway, turning straight to the less than ideal evidence:

    The Book: “Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras” (1995, 2002, 2006), by Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer

    Summed Up: Husband and wife anthropologists, with medical training, have a special interest in the impact of cultures on the incidence of disease. They form the hypothesis that bras may contribute to breast cancer and fibrocystic breast disease. They test their theory with a retrospective study involving 4500 women, half of whom had been diagnosed with breast cancer. They conclude that women who wear bras more than 12 hours per day have lifetime risk of breast cancer that is many times higher than women who wear bras less than 12 hours per day. The authors also point out that breast cancer is rare in countries where bras are not as commonly worn.

    Singer's Statistical Conclusions:

    Lifetime risk of breast cancer for women surveyed who never wear bras: 1 in 168

    Lifetime risk of breast cancer for women surveyed wearing bras less than 12 hours per day: 1 in 152

    Lifetime risk of breast cancer for women surveyed who wear bras more than 12 hours per day, but not to sleep: 1 in 11

    Lifetime risk of breast cancer for women surveyed who wear bras more than 12 hours per day, and to sleep: 3 in 4

    The Authors

    Sydney Ross Singer: Medical Anthropologist, Undergraduate degree in biology, 2 years of graduate work at Duke in biochemistry, two more years at Duke for M.S. in anthropology, two years of medical school at Univ. of Texas, additional year of medical humanities.

    Soma Grismaijer:
    Anthropological Researcher, Undergraduate degrees in behavioral science and environmental studies, licensed optician.

    The authors appear to be sincere people:

    “When we tested this theory, the findings were astounding. The connection of bras to breast cancer proved greater than our original expectations . . . the greatest challenge that faces any researcher is the need to keep an open mind. We cannot hope to unravel the mysteries of our time when faced with the biases of our time . . . All that is needed is an open mind – and a willingness to examine the evidence.”

    Even fifteen years after the first publication, all we have is their book, their study, and the most scanty additional evidence either supporting it or refuting it.

    So I am compelled to come to one of four possible conclusions about the authors in relation to their subject:

    1. They are right (with earth shaking ramifications.)
    2. They are crazy.
    3. They are incompetent.
    4. They are frauds.

    And I don't know which. I worry that #1 could be the winning answer. But I just don't know.

    I first bought this book in 1995. It had an eye catching cover photo of a nicely filled out bra under its provocative title. But I bought it because I was still haunted by the relatively recent death of a way-too-young older relative from breast cancer.

    The women’s magazines of the day were fast in their denunciations. Between pages of bra advertisements, male physicians who had obviously never read the book pronounced the bra – breast cancer connection idea to be absurd, anatomically impossible. They could be right.

    A few women physicians weren’t so sure – and some such as Elizabeth Vaughan MD still aren’t so sure:

    http://www.brafree.org/faq.html

    As recently as this year, a New York Times Q&A feature sought to put the question to rest by answering it with a resounding “NO!”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/16/sc...=2&ref=science

    There, a male MD from the American Cancer Society was queried on the subject and his responses were provided:

    “’The short answer is no,’ Dr. Ted Gansler, . . . replied. There is no scientifically credible evidence of this, he said, and the proposed mechanism — that bras prevent elimination of toxins by blocking lymph flow — is not in line with scientific concepts of how breast cancer develops. Internet traffic on the issue is mostly inspired by one study with several scientific flaws, Dr. Gansler said. The study, never published in a peer-reviewed journal, did not adjust for known breast cancer risk factors that might be associated with bra-wearing behavior, like weight and age. Also, study participants knew the hypothesis before taking the survey.

    ‘Because the idea of bras’ causing breast cancer is so scientifically implausible, it seems unlikely that researchers will ever spend their time and resources to test it in a real epidemiological study,’ Dr. Gansler said.

    He and colleagues compared National Cancer Institute data on breast cancer risk for women treated for melanoma who had several underarm lymph nodes removed and those who did not. The surgery, which is known to block lymph drainage from breast tissue, did not detectably increase breast cancer rates, the study found, meaning that it is extremely unlikely that wearing a bra, which affects lymph flow minimally if at all, would so. “


    So that is about where it all stands. Gansler and his “colleagues” looked at melanoma patients who’d had surgery that should have impaired breast lymph circulation and concluded that because they did not seem to get breast cancer at higher rates than other women (who presumably wore bras!), bras couldn’t cause breast cancer. His conclusions seem as knee jerk dismissive as many others who preceded him.

    What is maddening to some, fifteen years after Singer and his wife made their attempt at a prima facie case, no reputable researcher has bothered to do a simple well designed replication of the study that started all this. To prove it right or wrong.

    While almost mockingly criticizing Singer’s study, the NYT and American Cancer Society doc provide no scientific citations or details for the supposed study on melanoma patients conducted by the latter doctor that supposedly refuted Singer’s study. I've not been able to find it so far.

    If the latter study’s melanoma patients with melanoma severe enough to warrant axial lymph node removal even lived long enough to also develop primary breast tumors, and if their melanoma treatment and immune responses to the melanoma did not suppress formation of such breast tumors, and if there were enough of these patients, and if a lot of other answers were provided along with all the details of their “study,” Gansler's assertions might be marginally more convincing to me.

    So especially for those of us who appreciate the possibility of Primal answers to questions involving disease, we are all left with this critical question that demands good answers, but no good answers. Does someone have a better conclusion? Some of you logical, analytical and objective Primal guys out there? Some hysterical women? Some astute non-hysterical Primal women?
    Last edited by Paleo Man; 07-19-2010, 10:34 PM.

  • #2
    I'm wondering? How many men that get breast cancer wear bras?

    The only thing I can imagine is if your bra is soooooooooo tight you constrict lymph drainage. Perhaps that's an invitation to tumor growth.

    I just suspect that those that don't wear bras, especially those that live in under developed communities, have less chemical exposure, less sugar ingestion, less fake food ingestion etc... things that we KNOW contribute to cancer all the way around.

    Comment


    • #3
      No, bras don't cause breast cancer.

      Vitamin D deficiency does.

      That book proffered up some of the worst junk science imaginable. If we've said it once, we'll say it a thousand times more: "correlation does not imply causation."

      We'll give them a pass this time though b/c at the time, no one knew about D deficiency and cancer.



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      • #4
        Originally posted by Paleo Man View Post
        1. They are right (with earth shaking ramifications.)
        2. They are crazy.
        3. They are incompetent.
        4. They are frauds.

        And I don't know which. I worry that #1 could be the winning answer. But I just don't know.
        If they're still pushing the theory then it's #3.

        “’The short answer is no,’ Dr. Ted Gansler, . . . replied. There is no scientifically credible evidence of this, he said, and the proposed mechanism — that bras prevent elimination of toxins by blocking lymph flow — is not in line with scientific concepts of how breast cancer develops. Internet traffic on the issue is mostly inspired by one study with several scientific flaws, Dr. Gansler said. The study, never published in a peer-reviewed journal, did not adjust for known breast cancer risk factors that might be associated with bra-wearing behavior, like weight and age.

        ‘Because the idea of bras’ causing breast cancer is so scientifically implausible, it seems unlikely that researchers will ever spend their time and resources to test it in a real epidemiological study,’ Dr. Gansler said.
        +908,395

        Let's let this one die. Please? There are so many important, valid, pressing issues to discuss on MDA. This is......not one of them.



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        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by cillakat View Post
          If they're still pushing the theory then it's #3.



          +908,395

          Let's let this one die. Please? There are so many important, valid, pressing issues to discuss on MDA. This is......not one of them.
          OK! OK! Shoes are bad for you! Bras are good for you!

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Paleo Man View Post
            OK! OK! Shoes are bad for you! Bras are good for you!
            Paleo Man, you're awesome.

            Shoes are....mostly bad.

            Bras are....a non-issue.

            I have to say though that I really value your contribution to MDA. Your informative posts are integral part of making MDA a wonderful resource for those seeking nutritional and health information.

            Your time and input are *very* much appreciated.




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            • #7
              Originally posted by cillakat View Post
              Paleo Man, you're awesome.

              Shoes are....mostly bad.

              Bras are....a non-issue.

              I have to say though that I really value your contribution to MDA. Your informative posts are integral part of making MDA a wonderful resource for those seeking nutritional and health information.

              Your time and input are *very* much appreciated.

              Thanks, Cillakat! And your posts have uniformly contained vital life and health saving information.

              Early in this thread, or maybe late if Cillikat has her way, I'll second Cillikat's plug for vitamin D in the strongest possible terms. All of the unfolding research that I've read about shows that vitamin D is critical in avoiding cancer, autoimmune, heart disease and other conditions. Look at some of Cillikat's posts re vitamin D for more information and links. If you want established science that can save anyone's life and health, look at vitamin D. Look at the importance of testing. And the much higher levels that are now considered optimal in light of the unfolding science.
              Last edited by Paleo Man; 07-19-2010, 11:19 PM.

              Comment


              • #8
                Let this thread die? Well if it's so irrelevant, why did anyone click on it? This is an issue I've considered and often worried about, and sometimes try to go bra-less for the sake of breast health. So it is relevant and it would be better to look at issues around it and alternative, reassuring research than to simply shout 'nonsense' and ignore it.

                I'm a bit concerned about Vitamin D being presented as a panacaea around here.
                If we’re not supposed to eat animals, how come they’re made out of meat? Tom Snyder

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Paleo Man View Post
                  I'll second Cillikat's plug for vitamin D in the strongest possible terms. All of the unfolding research that I've read about shows that vitamin D is critical in avoiding cancer, autoimmune, heart disease and other conditions. Look at some of Cillikat's posts re vitamin D for more information and links. If you want established science that can save anyone's life and health, look at vitamin D. Look at the importance of testing. And the much higher levels that are now considered optimal in light of the unfolding science.
                  ♡you.

                  I am on a mission with the vitamin D thing. Loosing my 56 year old non-smoking, very healthy, active mother-in-law to lung cancer was.....well, painful seems an inadequate word.

                  And the rest who are managing cancer: A 40 year old cousin with prostate cancer. A dear friend 36 year old sister is dying of end stage breast cancer. Two internet friends who each have a child with cancer. My own sister with breast cancer (in remission). Many friends with children on the austism spectrum. Many friends with children who have mild to moderate to severe learning disabilities. My own children with mild and moderate LDs and ADHD. And there is my own history (see my journal).

                  The body of D evidence in regards to cancer, immune function, inflammation, autoimmune disorders is massive and growing. This is such an easy thing to fix.

                  Thank you. *Thank you.*



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                  • #10
                    reassuring research than to simply shout 'nonsense' and ignore it.
                    This:
                    “’The short answer is no,’ Dr. Ted Gansler, . . . replied. There is no scientifically credible evidence of this, he said, and the proposed mechanism — that bras prevent elimination of toxins by blocking lymph flow — is not in line with scientific concepts of how breast cancer develops. Internet traffic on the issue is mostly inspired by one study with several scientific flaws, Dr. Gansler said. The study, never published in a peer-reviewed journal, did not adjust for known breast cancer risk factors that might be associated with bra-wearing behavior, like weight and age.

                    ‘Because the idea of bras’ causing breast cancer is so scientifically implausible, it seems unlikely that researchers will ever spend their time and resources to test it in a real epidemiological study,’ Dr. Gansler said.


                    It's junk science. No one researching cancer takes it seriously because it's a theory not worth the paper the book is printed on.

                    But here is good science at work:



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                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Pregnancy and Vitamin D



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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by cillakat View Post
                        ♡you.

                        I am on a mission with the vitamin D thing.

                        . . .

                        My own children with mild and moderate LDs and ADHD.

                        Does vitamin D deficiency also contribute to learning disabilities and ADHD? I thought they were caused to a large extent by obstructive sleep apnea. Often heritable.

                        http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22881407/

                        For other posts on established science, how extremely prevalent obstructive sleep apnea is and how many ways it really can and will kill a person without ever appearing on their death certificate, look at some of the other posts from Cillakat and also myself.

                        But, back to the subject at hand, and less established but hopefully groundbreaking scientific discussion and insight . . .

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by cillakat View Post
                          did not adjust for known breast cancer risk factors that might be associated with bra-wearing behavior, like weight and age. [/B]
                          That says all you need to know about how poor this research is. Did no one learn anything from the still ongoing saga over the China Study. Firstly, correlation does not equal causation. Secondly, always ask what other variables may be affecting the results.

                          In this case we have a link between breast cancer rates and wearing bras. What else can we say about women who wear bras? They're from richer countries. They eat a diet high in grains, soy and just about every other bad thing. They don't get enough sun. And so on. Whereas groups of women more likely to not wear bras live more primally over all and therefore have less of all the other causative properties of cancer (i.e poor diet, lack of sun etc).
                          A steak a day keeps the doctor away

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Paleo Man View Post
                            Does vitamin D deficiency also contribute to learning disabilities and ADHD? I thought they were caused to a large extent by obstructive sleep apnea. Often heritable.

                            http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22881407/
                            That references only behaviors that might mimic LDs or ADHD. Yes, sleep is mind-bogglingly important. Or perhaps it's better to say that good quality sleep is important so as to keep one's mind from becoming boggled.

                            But real ADHD and LDs? No good evidence yet, just some epidemiological data and a couple of rat studies.

                            Give it 10 years though.....lol

                            And in the mean time, hopefully all hcps of pregnant women are following the AAP 'request' to test all pregnant women's vitamin d levels and to treat deficiency accordingly.

                            What? You say they're not? Even in spite of the Wagner/ Hollis study? Imagine that.

                            and less established but hopefully groundbreaking scientific discussion and insight . . .
                            It's 3 am! Sleep deprivation is a problem whether caused by sleep apnea or staying up to late in front of the computer.

                            And did you see this? Are you standing up? lol

                            http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/0...re-at-screens/



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                            • #15
                              On the issue under discussion, I'm surprised at how quickly and vehemently some well credentialed folks are to insist that the answer is "NO!" and that there "can't be" a connection.

                              In my mind, in the absence of carefully controlled studies, the words "can't be" and "anatomically impossible" apply to something like this: A fly lands on the behind of a woman in Taiwan. A woman in the US gets cancer. I agree! There can't be a connection. It is anatomically impossible.

                              I'd be much, much more hesitant to apply such certainty to a situation such as this: A modern woman does something never done in the history of evolving humans; she uses a sometimes irritating appliance to constrict a portion of her anatomy every day and almost all day. She gets cancer at elevated rates in that portion of her anatomy that is adjacent to the appliance, anatomy that may be especially susceptible.

                              Can constant exposure to an unnatural irritant ever cause cancer?

                              Consider the case of bladder cancer and the correlation with long term catheter placement (selected excerpts below):

                              http://findarticles.com/p/articles/m.../ai_n32007486/

                              "The factor frequently reported responsible for this connection (in addition to smoking) is chronic irritation within the bladder.

                              Craig Hospital researchers specifically looked at the relationship between long-term catheter usage and bladder-cancer risk in 3,670 former patients, injured between 1950 and 1997.

                              Sky High

                              What did the researchers find? The bladder cancer rate for indwelling-catheter users was ten times higher than in the U.S. nondisabled population and more than four times greater than for SCI survivors who did not use indwelling catheters. After adjusting for age, the expected number of new diagnoses of bladder cancer among indwelling catheter users was 77 cases per 100,000 people per year, compared with just under 8 among able-bodied individuals.

                              Researchers also discovered a large rise in the incidence of bladder cancer for indwelling-catheter users at about 20 years postinjury and at about 40 years of age. In addition, they found higher rates--about seven times greater--in those who had used indwelling catheters at any point (greater than a year) in their SCI "careers."

                              These findings seem to suggest a "dose" or "exposure" effect: The more years an indwelling catheter is in place, the greater the risk of bladder cancer.

                              For people who, since initial rehabilitation, had exclusively used bladder programs that did not involve an indwelling catheter, the adjusted cancer rates were about 18 per 100,000--or about twice that of the able-bodied general population. This extra risk is probably explained, at least in part, by the increased tendency for bladder infections SCI survivors face."


                              Reference to bladder irritation with catheters causing bladder cancer absolutely does not prove that bras cause breast cancer. But at least the first possibility has been deemed worthy of quality studies by qualified researchers, while the second was not.

                              Are bladders so much more important than breasts?

                              When there is a ten fold increase in bladder cancer among long term catheter users, researchers had no trouble suspecting causation in face of such high correlation.

                              But when Singer reports a ten fold increase in breast cancer among women who wear bras more of the day, everyone insists that there can't be causation involved. It must be just correlation.

                              The first step, for crying out loud, is for someone to do a quality study and find out if there is really a ten fold increase or any other degree of increase of breast cancer correlation. Maybe not. Then we can happily forget about this.

                              And if there is such a high degree of correlation, surely it is worth exploring thoroughly to determine whether bra usage, or some other factor that correlates with bra usage, is causing the ten fold breast cancer increase.
                              Last edited by Paleo Man; 07-20-2010, 06:53 AM.

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