Going Braless Doesn’t Increase Risk of Breast Cancer

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Lu Chen, MPH
Researcher in the Public Health Sciences Division
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology
University of Washington School of Public Health

Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Chen: We found no evidence that wearing a bra is associated with breast cancer risk. Further, breast cancer risk was not impacted by bra wearing frequency, wearing a bra with an underwire, or starting to wear a bra at a young age.

Medical Research: Were any of the findings unexpected?

​Dr. Chen: The biological plausibility for a relationship between bra wearing and breast cancer risk when we began this study was quite weak, but since no other studies have really addressed this question in depth we were uncertain what we would find. The potential mechanism through which bra wearing could influence breast health is that bras could impair lymphatic drainage particularly in the lymph nodes located under a woman’s arm leading to compromised filtration of accumulated waste products. Given the very limited biologic evidence supporting a potential link between bra wearing and breast cancer risk, our results were not surprising.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Chen: With our findings there is no published scientific evidence that bra wearing is related to breast cancer risk.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Chen: ​Like all studies, our study had limitations. The main limitation was that almost every woman in our study wore a bra, therefore we could not directly compare those who never wore a bra to those who wore. Alternatively, we compared how long they wore a bra every day, whether the bra had an underwire and when they began wearing a bra. Based on these factors we evaluated, the results were consistent that all these aspects of bra wearing were not relevant to breast cancer. If future studies can include women who never wore a bra in her lifetime and directly compare those who wore versus those who did not, it would strengthen the existing evidence.


Lu Chen, Kathleen E. Malone, and Christopher I. Li. Bra Wearing Not Associated with Breast Cancer Risk: A Population-Based Case–Control Study. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, September 2014 DOI: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-14-0414