There is an intimate link between bras and breasts. When women are uncomfortable with any aspect of their breasts, it affects how they feel in their lingerie. Health issues magnify that emotional connection, so it’s critical to stay current with the latest research in breast health. Fab Foundations called on friend and breast expert extraordinaire Elisabeth Dale, of The Breast Life for the latest information on the breast health questions we hear most.
FF: We hear a lot about the link between bra/breasts and cancer. Can you shed some light on the stories out there – from the role of underwires to breast size. Are there any links women should worry about and, if so, what can we do to address them?
ED: The two biggest risks factors for breast cancer are (a) being a woman, and (b) getting older. Only 10%-15% of all cancers have some kind of hereditary link. And there is no scientific evidence that bra wear leads to breast cancer. This falsehood is based, in part, on the theory that wires press on sensitive lymph glands. But we know that breast cancer isn’t one specific disease so there is no corresponding easy answer. It’s important to educate yourself on the myths and realities surrounding breast cancer. It’s too easy to accept whatever one views on an Internet news feed as having a basis in fact. For example, news headlines claiming a link between bra size and increased breast cancer risk misrepresented original research findings. Many in the breast cancer non-profit community believe that too much emphasis is placed on asking women to make arbitrary lifestyle choices (which leads to blaming ourselves if we receive a diagnosis) and that more dollars should go toward studying possible environmental causes.
Any kind of cancer is frightening, but breast cancer is more often in the news. Some think it has to do with the “sexiness” factor and how breasts are viewed as the outward symbol of our femininity and womanhood. Despite a month devoted to raising awareness, breast cancer is still not the number one killer of women. That is heart disease. So I encourage women to consider doing what is necessary to keep that organ pumping properly (e.g. regular exercise and maintaining a healthy diet). Focusing on overall good health seems a better goal.
FF: There seems to be an increase in younger girls with small back bands and large breasts. Is there any research supporting this trend, or is it anecdotal? Why the shift?
ED: No one, to my knowledge, is looking at the phenomenon of larger breast development in younger women. Bra fitters told me back in 2006 (when I was researching my book) that “E” was new “C.” Since that time, lingerie manufacturers have responded by offering women a wider range of sizes (with backs of 28 and cups up to N). It can’t be blamed on obesity either, since many women don’t lose or gain weight in their chest. Even plastic surgeons have seen these differences in breast/back sizes and know it’s not from increased breast augmentations. Some assume it is related to hormones in the physical environment, but so far there’s no evidence of such a connection.
FF: What’s the one thing you wish all women knew and/or practiced when it comes to their breasts?
ED: I wish women would accept the changing nature of their breasts. No two are alike, even on the same woman’s chest. Then it would be easier for us to learn to love ourselves at any size, shape, or level of perkiness. We would embrace spending money on dressing them properly, too. (We have no problem buying new fashion styles for the seasons, so why not for what’s underneath?) Maybe then women could think more like men when it comes to breasts: be in awe of their power, magic and beauty!