A recent post on Goop, the lifestyle blog of actress Gwyneth Paltrow, has resurrected the long-discredited claim that breast cancer may be caused by wearing bras -- just in time for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The author of the post, Dr. Habib Sadeghi, offers as evidence the book Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras, written in 1995 by Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer, a husband-and-wife team of medical anthropologists.
In his 2,700-word post, which was included in Goop's Oct. 15 newsletter to subscribers, Sadeghi posits that wearing a tight bra could theoretically restrict the lymph nodes around the breast, thereby preventing "toxins from being processed through them and flushed out of the body."
In addition, he argues, bras may raise the temperature of breast tissue, which could "alter hormone function and raise the risk of breast cancer." Another possible danger is the underwire, he states, which could magnify the radiation associated with cell phones and wireless Internet. "While the fact that your bra could absorb and intensify radiation seems preposterous, it’s not as far-fetched as it sounds," he writes.
Sadeghi advises women to limit the amount of time they wear bras, buy bras without underwire and never carry a cell phone in a breast pocket, pants pocket or the bra itself. "While there is a legitimate reason for concern when it comes to bras and breast cancer," he writes, "some simple changes, along with an existing healthy lifestyle, can result in a drastic reduction in breast cancer risk."
According to medical professionals, that's all completely bogus.
The American Cancer Society says "there are no scientifically valid studies that show wearing bras of any type causes breast cancer." The theory that breast cancer is caused by an accumulation of toxins due to restricted lymph node drainage is “inconsistent with scientific concepts of breast physiology and pathology.”
A 2014 study confirmed that there is no link between bras and cancer, finding that there was "no evidence that wearing a bra increases a woman's risk of breast cancer," regardless of how often the woman wears a bra, whether the bra has an underwire or what size cup the woman wears.
Jennifer Gunter, a San Francisco-area OB-GYN and writer who eviscerated the Goop story point-by-point on her blog Tuesday, said that Sadeghi's arguments don't make any medical sense.
"Breast cancer is a complex condition that involves genetics and a variety of risk factors, the most common ones being obesity, dense breasts, alcohol consumption, if and when (age) a woman gives birth, taking estrogen, and a history of radiation exposure," Gunter told The Huffington Post in an email. "None of these things are related to bras except obesity, which gives larger breasts and hence increases likelihood of wearing a bra."
She said it was wrong for Goop to publish Sadeghi's story, given the lack of evidence for the ideas it advances.
"This stuff scares women," Gunter said. "When people have cancer they desperately reap their past to try and come up with things they may have done, and so this kind of misinformation could cause women to stress and lose sleep and that is definitely bad for your health, nevermind being cruel."
Goop did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
This year, an estimated 230,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S., and some 40,300 women are expected to die of the disease.
This story has been updated with additional details about Sadeghi's blog post.
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