Uplifting news for the girls: Regularly wearing a brassiere does not increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer after menopause, a new study finds.
But I digress.
The new study, published this week in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, lifts the veil on a speculated link between bras and breast cancer, and separates myth from reality: "lay media," the study authors write, have suggested that by impairing the free flow of lymphatic fluids, bras impede the removal of waste and toxin removal, that perennial bugaboo of health faddists and medical conspiracy theorists.
The speculated result of such a toxic buildup would be higher rates of breast cancer among women with a lifelong habit of sequestering their breast tissue in supportive underwear.
"Given how common bra-wearing is," said the study's lead author, epidemiology doctoral student Lu Chen, "we thought this was an important question to address."
The study, conducted by Chen and fellow public health experts at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, was the first to apply a "rigorous epidemiological study design" to the feared bra-cancer connection. It should provide "reassurance" to women, the authors concluded, that their decision to support their breasts will not expose them to a greater risk of malignancy and treatment-related loss.
For those who cling to their suspicions, one methodological shortcoming of the current study might be noted: bra-wearing was "ubiquitous" among the women studied, so researchers were unable to compare the breast cancer rates of women who never wore bras with those of women who always wore them. Instead, in interviewing subjects about their bra-wearing habits, researchers focused more on marginal variations of bra-wearing patterns--none of which mattered.
That study, concluded the authors, suffered from serious methodological flaws.