Can you trust your culture’s leading authorities? Inflammatory Breast Cancer Rash Can you trust your culture’s government? Can you trust your culture’s private industry?”
We asked those questions in 1995, at the end of our book, Dressed To Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras. Before writing our book, we sent details of our research to the National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, President’s Cancer Panel, American Women’s Medical Association, National Organization for Women, National Women’s Health Network, and National Women’s Health Resource Center. There was no response. Not one. Given the lack of interest, we decided to publish our findings in a book, getting the information directly to the women who needed to hear it.
But are women getting the message?
It has been 12 years since our book was first published. Over that time, more than 500,000 women in the US alone have died from breast cancer, with another 2,000,000 having been diagnosed with this terrible disease — a disease that is in most cases preventable by simply loosening up or eliminating the bra. And yet, this lifesaving information has been actively suppressed and censored by the medical and lingerie industries.
Examples of Suppress and Censorship
A large public relations firm in New York City was willing and eager to help us release this information to the public. “My wife just had breast cancer, and I’m sure you are right,” the head of the firm confessed. A big media announcement and celebration were planned. Days later, however, the firm withdrew its offer to help, stating that one of their clients, a large medical center, objected to their working with us.
A Sydney, Australia public relations firm agreed to help publicize our work when we were doing outreach efforts in their country. But it, too, reversed itself. We had asked if they had any conflicts of interest, such as lingerie industry clients. They said they had none. But as it turned out, they did represent a pharmaceutical company that makes a breast cancer treatment drug, and the prevention of breast cancer and its treatment are in conflict, they explained.
The Intimate Apparel Council (which is the US trade association for the multi-billion dollar bra industry) threatened our publisher, Avery Publishing Group, with a lawsuit if Dressed To Kill was released. The publisher said the publicity would help spread the word. The lawsuit never materialized.
After the book was released, the NBC television news show, Dateline, was interested in doing a story on our work. We were extensively interviewed by a skeptical reporter who became a supporter. The story was then abruptly terminated. The producer confidentially explained that the policy of General Electric, which owns NBC, is to avoid airing news stories that can adversely impact on other GE interests. As it happens, GE is a manufacturer of mammography machines.
Women’s magazines, such as Glamour, Self, and others, ran critical stories condemning our work, and finding “experts” to encourage women to continue wearing bras. Elle magazine planned a positive story about the bra/cancer link, but was coerced into pulling the story by bra advertisers. In various newspapers around the world, such as the Guardian in the UK, stories were pulled prior to publication because of fear that they may “panic the public”, including their lingerie advertisers.
The British Fashion Council (which is the UK’s equivalent of the Intimate Apparel Council) published the Breast Health Handbook in 1996 to oppose our efforts. They announced the formation of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Foundation, which was to receive donations from bra sales to fund genetic research into breast cancer. The book criticized our work, claiming, “The idea that wearing a bra encourages cancer by trapping toxins was recently put forward by researchers at the Institute for Culturogenic Studies (sic) in Hawaii. Researchers from more august establishments promptly dismissed it as claptrap.” Without any medical evidence or research, the book informs women that wearing bras is a health necessity, and should be worn as early in life as possible to prevent breast damage.
Our original publisher, Avery, was purchased by giant Penguin Putnam in 1998. The new publisher did not list the book for three years and refused to revert publication rights to the copywrite holders, Singer and Grismaijer. The book was virtually unavailable, and it was thought to have gone out of print. Finally, after repeated requests, the publishing rights were released to us in October, 2001. (ISCD Press has been keeping it in print since then.)
A television documentary was produced in the year 2000 by Channel 4 in the UK, called, Bras- The Bare Facts. In the documentary, 100 women with fibrocystic breast disease went bra-free for 3 months to document the effect on breast cysts and pain. Two prominent British breast surgeons conducted the study. The results were astounding, and clearly demonstrated that the bra is a serious health hazard. We were interviewed for the program to discuss the bra/cancer connection, which was considered highly plausible and important by the doctors interviewed. Some theorized that, in addition to lymphatic impairment, the bra could also cause cancer by overheating the breasts. The documentary made newspaper headlines in British Commonwealth countries throughout the world, but no mention of it was made at all in the US. The following day, headlines in the U.K. tried to suppress fears of the bra/cancer link, and the doctors in the study quickly distanced themselves from the cancer issue, telling women to continue wearing bras. Their research for the documentary was supposed to be published in a medical journal, but never was. And no further research ever materialized to follow-up on their work, which they said they would do. Extensive news coverage of the program was available on the Internet soon after it aired, but most articles were removed shortly thereafter.
No follow-up studies have been done to refute or confirm our research. None. While a Harvard study, published in the European Journal of Cancer in 1991, discovered that bra-free women have a lower rate of breast cancer, the results were not central to the research they were conducting and were considered unimportant and not followed-up. In fact, apart from our initial 1991-93 Bra and Breast Cancer Study, discussed in detail in Dressed To Kill, and our follow-up research in Fiji, discussed in our book, Get It Off!, there are still no other studies on the bra/cancer link. Not even a letter or discussion of the issue can be found in any medical journal. After decades of breast cancer research, the bra is still completely ignored as even being a potential factor for consideration. It’s like studying foot disease and ignoring shoes.
Keeping the Public Mystified
This lack of research, and the consequent ignorance, are then used by cancer organizations to justify further suppression of the issue. As the American Cancer Society states on its website, (ignoring the Harvard study), “There are no scientifically valid studies that show a correlation between wearing bras of any type and the occurrence of breast cancer. Two anthropologists made this association in a book called Dressed To Kill. Their study was not conducted according to standard principles of epidemiological research and did not take into consideration other variables, including known risk factors for breast cancer. There is no other, credible research to validate this claim in any way.” And they don’t seem interested in funding any such studies in the near future, either. There are other organizations that are similarly critical of the bra/cancer link for lack of research evidence, while at the same time discouraging any research on the subject.
Of particular interest is when breast cancer organizations antagonistic to the issue declare the bra/cancer link to be “misinformation” or a “myth”, without any scientific study supporting their claims. They say bras are important for women to wear for support, without any evidence showing bras are safe or necessary. They then encourage regular mammograms, cancer prevention drug therapy (not realizing that “prevention therapy” is an oxymoron), and even preventative mastectomies (which means that those who are high risk for breast cancer but who don’t want to get it can have their breast removed as a prevention strategy). Of course, it is better to remove the bra instead of the breasts, but bra removal is not a billable procedure.
Keep in mind that bras have been associated with other health problems, such as headaches, numbness in the hands, backache and other postural problems, cysts, pain, skin depigmentation, and more. And lymphatic blockage, which is the result of bra constriction, has already been associated with various cancers. Clearly, the bra/cancer link needs further research, while women take the precaution of loosening up.
Why the resistance?
What harm could there be in following our simple advice, or in even researching this issue? Why the defensive reaction?
There are three reasons:
1. The bra industry fears class action lawsuits. Many insiders have admitted to us that for years the industry suspected underwires were causing cancer. They know that tight bras cause cysts and pain. It is only a matter of time until a lawsuit is made against a bra manufacturer. As a defense, the industry is shifting the blame to the customer, claiming that most women are wearing their bras too tightly, and should get professional fittings. (How do you get a properly fitted push-up bra?) Breaking ranks with their industry peers, and trying to capitalize on the bad news, are several bra manufacturers that now offer newly patented bras claiming to mitigate the damage, including cancer, caused by conventional bras.
2. The medical industry is making billions each year on the detection and treatment of breast cancer. As mentioned above, there is a conflict between the prevention and the treatment of disease, especially if the prevention does not include drugs or surgery. The fact is that our treatment-focused, profit-oriented medical system is making a killing treating this disease, and has billions to lose if breast cancer goes out of fashion along with bras.
In addition, the bra issue will revolutionize the breast cancer field, embarrassing many researchers. Breast cancer research to date that has ignored the bra issue is seriously flawed as a result, which is why the “experts” are still unable to explain the cause of over 70% of all breast cancer cases. Career cancer researchers who have ignored the bra issue will have to admit this fatal flaw in their work, which they are not inclined to admit in their lifetimes.
3. Finally, there is the dogmatic, fearful resistance from some women who find their personal identity so connected to their bras that they would rather risk cancer than be bra-free (which some women have actually told us.) Women are cultural entities, and so long as our culture scorns a natural bustline, many women will submit to the pain, red marks and indentations, cysts, and even the threat of cancer rather than face potential public ridicule (which never really happens.)
There are also women who believe the myth that bras will prevent droopy breasts. The bra industry admits this is a myth, while it still promotes it to improve sales. In fact, bras cause breasts to droop, as the breasts become dependent on the bra for support and the natural supportive mechanisms atrophy from non use.
Despite the resistance, however, some women have gotten the message. And many health care professionals, who have also suspected bras for years, are now spreading that message. As women hear the news and discover that eliminating the bra also eliminates cysts and pain, the news further spreads by word of mouth.
There are now thousands of websites on this subject, many from health care professionals including medical doctors, naturopathic doctors, osteopathic doctors, chiropractors, massage therapists, lymphatic specialists, nutritionists, and others who care about women and helping end this epidemic. Grassroots efforts to keep this information alive and spreading have supplanted the traditional medical research approach, which has disqualified itself for lack of interest and conflict of interest.
When a disease is caused by the culture and its habits, attitudes, fashions and industries, there is bound to be resistance to change. Industries that contribute to disease will be defensive, and industries that profit from disease will be conflicted. However, the truth has a way of getting out, despite the resistance and suppression. Thank Goodness the truth does have a way of getting out.
Sydney Ross Singer is a medical anthropologist and director of the Institute for the Study of Culturogenic Disease, located in Hawaii. His unique form of applied medical anthropology searches for the cultural/lifestyle causes of disease. His working assumption is that our bodies were made to be healthy, but our culture and the attitudes and behaviors it instills in us can get in the way of health. By eliminating these causes, the body is allowed to heal. Since most diseases of our time are caused by our culture/lifestyle, this approach has resulted in many original discoveries into the cause, and cure, of many common diseases. It also makes prevention possible by eliminating adverse lifestyle practices. Sydney works with his co-researcher and wife, Soma Grismaijer, and is the author of several groundbreaking health books.