Do Sports Bras Cause Cancer?

Do Sports Bras Cause Cancer? featured image
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Raise your hand if you’ve ever believed a lie on the internet. TikTok‘s ability to circulate old information as a new health and beauty hack is nothing short of amazing. This time, it has to do with a viral video from late last year gaining steam and causing concern among those of us who wear sports bras regularly. Do sports bras cause cancer? Do sports bras cause lymphatic blockages? What about pooling toxins?

We break down the trending video and the expert response.

TikToker’s Sports Bra Video Gains Attention

The viral video in question is from the point of view of a patient who recently had a breast lump examined. She explains that her doctor gave her an ultrasound and when they found it was (thankfully) not an issue, and that her doctor explained that it could be a lymphatic issue.

According to the TikTok user, Kelly Noble, “the [doctor] said that fluids can get stuck in here from your lymph nodes [glands beside the breasts and under the armpits], and when you have compression… on them all the time, it gets extra fluid because it can’t go anywhere,” Noble explains.

The video quickly went beyond Noble’s 12,000 followers, currently standing at 1.3 million likes.

‘I have lumps and My Dr never gave me this info and now I’m so happy you mentioned this,’ one commenter wrote.

Experts Respond

UK breast cancer surgeon Dr. Liz O’Riordan posted a video on Youtube responding to the viral video, calling it “nonsense.”

“He [her doctor] told her that the sports bra caused the lump,” Dr. O’Riordan says. “I just don’t know what to say.”

O’Riordan goes on to say that Noble’s doctor was misinformed, and that the lymphatic system doesn’t drain down into the breast in the way he was suggesting. Of course, it makes perfect sense that Noble trusted what her doctor had to say.

“Doctors like me are meant to be the experts,” Dr. O’Riordan says. “What we say is supposed to be the truth.”

On the bra side of things, if you’re experiencing regular discomfort while wearing a bra, underwire or sport, you probably need to get a different size. Your sports bra shouldn’t be so tight as to be uncomfortable and chafing.

More people are wearing ill-fitting bras than you might think. “The biggest mistakes we see are mostly related to not knowing how a bra should fit,” says Klubnick. According to the director of technical design and fit at Adore Me, Colleen Leung, when people say “bras and underwires are uncomfortable” it’s generally code for “they’re not the right size.”

Sport Bra Safety: The Pros

The myths surrounding bras and breast cancer have been going strong since the mid-90s, and rest-assured, they’ve been tested. Originally, the culprit was supposedly underwire bras, which critics claimed compressed the lymphatic system, causing buildup and eventually cancerous growths. But According to the American Cancer Society, there is no evidence that compression of the lymph nodes by bras causes breast cancer. The lymphatic system also doesn’t work like that. Body fluids actually travel up and into the underarm lymph nodes, not towards the band of your bra, explains National Center for Health Research spokesperson Caroline Novas.

Additionally, a sports bra is actually helpful.

“You might not know it, but your breasts can bounce up to 15 centimeters in any direction,” Dr. O’Riordan explains. “That can be sore and uncomfortable and prevent you from getting active.”

A well-fitting sports bra can lessen the pain from all that movement. You just need to make sure it’s still giving all it can, and replace it when the elastic starts to give out.

Sport Bra Safety: The Cons

You don’t need to be worrying about your sports bra causing breast cancer, but that doesn’t mean you should be wearing one all day. Compression garments like sports bras are notorious for causing skin issues like fungal rashes, just like Adele got from her Spanx.

Alongside potential skin issues from poorly fitting bras, sports bras have also drawn attention recently for their levels of BPA. Sports bras from brand Sweaty Betty were tested alongside athletic wear from several other brands, and had levels of BPA found to be up to 40 times the safe limit.

This testing was carried out by watchdog group Center For Environmental Health, which notes it has only found BPA in polyester-based clothing containing spandex. “We want brands to reformulate their products to remove all bisphenols including BPA. In the interim, we recommend limiting the time you spend in your activewear by changing after your workout,” the group said.

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