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Is It Unhealthy To Wear A Bra?

Updated on June 29, 2013

Benefits of a bra?

From early teens or just before, girls usually get their first bra. This has become an essential accessory as important as wearing knickers - so much so, it's almost a 'rite of passage' when a girl begins to wear a bra for the first time.

In addition, women tend to feel not properly dressed unless they are wearing a bra. However, is there any real health benefits from wearing one? Or is it a case of because women have worn the garment for so long, no one now questions whether we actually need a bra?

When going about my home I definitely find it more comfortable to go without a bra and I certainly couldn't sleep with one on. However, on going out to do errands, work or socially I always wear a bra. I feel more confident when outside and at work wearing a bra and wouldn't feel appropriately dressed if I went without.

Another important reason for wearing a bra or any form of lingerie is because of they way the look and how they make us feel. Today we have a large selection to chose from of beautiful lingerie.

However, lets see why wearing the bra has become so important to us and if there are more benefits to not wearing one.

The thought of wearing this old fashioned type bra brings me out in a cold sweat!
The thought of wearing this old fashioned type bra brings me out in a cold sweat! | Source

Fun Facts

  • Did you know that according to bra fitting professionals, about 80% of women don't wear the proper size bra.
  • The most expensive bras in the world are made by Victoria's Secrets. They are set with precious stones and cost at least a couple of million dollars to buy.

A brief history of the brassiere

For thousands of years women have used some form of garment to either enhance the feminine form or to make it less conspicuous. Depending on what one was used wasn't the choice of women, but depended on the times and what - in the Western world at least - the church had to say. Women then had to dress accordingly whether it was flattering or not, comfortable or not.

The first garment to resemble a bra was patented in 1859 by Henry Lesher, New York. This bra wasn't made for support, but to 'absorb perspiration' it also had inflatable pads to ensure that both breasts looked as if they were the same size. Naturally, the left breast in women, tends to be slightly larger than the right.

In 1907 the magazine 'Vogue' first used the word brassiere and in 1911 it was incorporated into the Oxford English Dictionary. By this time there were a few patents and prototypes for what would become the modern bra.

This looks like an instrument of torture - a bra with built in back support!
This looks like an instrument of torture - a bra with built in back support! | Source

Fun Facts

  • About $16 billion dollars is spent around the world every year on bras alone.
  • Statistics show that the average bust size over the last 15 to 20 years has increased. Previously 34B was the average now it is estimated at around 36C.
  • At least 27% of women will not buy a garment they like simply because they don't have a suitable bra to go with it.
  • The death nail for the horrific corset came about probably due to World War I. Because corsets used metal as part of its fixtures women were asked not to buy them. This allowed precious metals to be freed up to go towards the war effort. It has been estimated that the amount of metal saved by women giving up corsets would have allowed at least two battle ships to be built.

Wearing a bra is second nature to most women but are they doing more harm than good?
Wearing a bra is second nature to most women but are they doing more harm than good? | Source

Health risks of wearing a bra?

According to some medical research that has been carried out recently, there could be health risks and unwanted side effects from wearing a bra. These health risks include a potential increase in the chances of getting breast cancer. However, this association with wearing bras and potential health risks is not new. In 1994, Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijerina, published the book "Dressed To Kill". The authors conclusions based on their findings was that there could be an increased risk of breast cancer when restricition of the breasts occur over a long period of time due to wearing a bra.

Overall, medical research seems to indicate that the constricting nature of bras interferes with the proper functioning of the lymph nodes which are the first defence against cancer cells. In addition, congestion in the lymph nodes leads to swelling, tenderness and the risk of toxins building up in the breasts and being able to filter out.

Research carried out by Professor Robert Mansel, Cardiff University Hospital, Wales and his colleague, Simon Cawthorn sample 100 premenopausal women and found that the sample who went withou a bra for a period of three months had significantly reduced breast pain. Regular breast pain has been linked in some cases to the development of breast cancer.

However, some cancer charities have criticised the British research. While the criticism is not unfounded in relation to the British research that had a small sample, there are other studies in addition to the British team and the book "Dressed To Kill", that may indeed show a link between breast cancer and wearing a bra. In addition, other forms of research such as medical anthropology studies published in 1995, revealed that women in cultures where bras are not worn had significantly reduced rates of breast cancer than women in socities where bras are worn regularly.

Reducing breast pain

It is interesting to note that found that women who exercised gently on a mini trampoline - without a bra - found that this reduced the monthly swelling and tenderness in the breast area that many women suffer from. In addition, those women who suffered from fibrocystic breasts, found that this form of exercise also helped to reduce swelling and pain.

Fibrocystic breasts are not uncommon and are normal. It's estimated that at least half of all women experience some form of breast change in their life. Fibrocystic breasts tend to feel lumpy and can be very tender, painful and swollen especially around the outer and upper area of the breast. For most women this tends to happen just prior to her period starting.

What recent research seems to show is that women who do experience breast tenderness and pain due to fiborcystic breasts, can benefit from not wearing a bra.

Women with fuller figures

In addition ro the British research carried out on wearing bras, they also found that women with fuller figures also suffered less breast pain when reducing the amount of time they wore their bras. Their findings indicated that the size of the bust bears no relation to the pain a woman may experience.

Obviously if you are used to wearing a bra constantly and start to do vigorous exercise there is going to be initially pain and discomfort, but this eases off once the breasts start to build up the muscles and tendons.

Don't wear a bra?

Of course it's understandable why some women, especially if they have a large bust, want support. There's nothing wrong with this, what does seem to be indicated though is that wearing a bra continually does not prevent breasts from sagging and may in fact weaken the muscles through lack of proper movement.

Basically a bra is a sling that gives support, but may weaken muscles that have no work to do. However, in medical terms there is a lot of disagreement about whether a bra actually makes the breasts weaker or if a bra gives the breast support to ward off the effects of gravity.

That anatomy of the breast - will wearing a bra damage the structures of the breast and lymph nodes?
That anatomy of the breast - will wearing a bra damage the structures of the breast and lymph nodes? | Source

Bras on or off?

Do you wear a bra all the time?

See results


It really goes back to the same advice as for most things - everything in moderation. Therefore, where you feel - either psychologically or physically - you need to wear a bra, then wear it.

My own personal way is that I wear a bra when I go out socially and to work. However, when I want to be relaxed and super comfy then I don't wear one and this tends to be nearly all the time at home.

I'm 51 years of age now and never have worn a bra in bed and as yet, there are no signs that gravity is pulling my boobs towards my toes. So basically what I'm saying is, that women should choose for themselves what feels right for them both physically and psychologically.

Lastly, women are born with the genetic codes to begin to grow breasts when she reaches puberty. When we begin to develop, nature doesn't supply us with a ready made bra. Perhaps that's because Mother Nature knows we don't need one? Human beings are great inventors but that doesn't mean that all our inventions are improvements on nature - but at the end of the day, each woman has to make her own choice as to what is best for her.


Submit a Comment

  • Seeker7 profile image

    Helen Murphy Howell 3 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi brakel2 many thanks for stopping by and for leaving such an interesting comment. It just proves that doctors etc... don't always know everything, even although some of them act as if they do!

  • Seeker7 profile image

    Helen Murphy Howell 3 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi JamaGenee, good for you! I only wear a bra when its absolutely necessary and very rarely do I ever wear one about the house.

  • brakel2 profile image

    Audrey Selig 3 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

    Hi Seeker - I am trying to go through the list of people I follow, and soon your title made me curious. I have never heard about the breast cancer theory. I have trouble finding a bra that fits me. Somehow, a medicine I took quite a while ago, made my breasts get bigger, but my doctor won't confirm my theory. I looked up the medicine, and it is a side effect. The history of bras is so interesting and shows that you can make a story out of anything. I wish I could think of a story like this one. The hub is delightful and makes you think of your own bra and why you wear it. Sharing, Blessings, Audrey

  • JamaGenee profile image

    Joanna McKenna 3 years ago from Central Oklahoma

    I stopped wearing bras at home 20 years ago, before I'd ever heard of the connection to breast cancer (which I firmly believe). Four or five years ago I gave up on regular bras entirely and switched to soft, unstructured sports bras. Even those I only wear when absolutely necessary, like in the warm months when I can't hide my bralessness under a baggy sweatshirt. I DO, however, keep one regular bra on the off chance - like when Haedes freezes over - that I'll have to attend a function requiring a real dress or a dressy top over slacks.

    For what it's worth, I suspect the chemicals in hair coloring, foundation (makeup), and hand/body lotion also contribute to the cancer rate in women and stopped using all of them a decade ago. Knock on wood, I'm a cancer-free retiree, have NO medical issues, and the only "drug" I allow past my lips is aspirin. Just sayin'...

  • Seeker7 profile image

    Helen Murphy Howell 3 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi K Kiss, many thanks for stopping by and that you enjoyed the hub. I think there are many health benefits, but the main reason I don't wear a bra all that often now is because its far more comfortable.

  • K Kiss profile image

    K Kiss 3 years ago from Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

    I came across the knowledge that wearing bra can lead to having breast cancer a couple of years ago and since then made it a point to not wear bra whenever possible. Especially at home.

    Thanks for sharing with this very important information that half the population need to be aware of.

    Voted up.

  • Seeker7 profile image

    Helen Murphy Howell 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Thanks for your interesting comment.

  • Blond Logic profile image

    Mary Wickison 4 years ago from Brazil

    Interesting hub, I have wondered lately if wearing a bra was detrimental or not. I tend to wear an underwire and worry that it may put undue pressure on the rib cage and surrounding area. Plus breast tissue can sometimes get pinched by them as well.

  • Seeker7 profile image

    Helen Murphy Howell 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi jcresslet, many thanks for stopping by! LOL! even although your 'not equipped' it still great to get a man's perspective - thank you!

  • Seeker7 profile image

    Helen Murphy Howell 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi annart,

    I absolutely agree - I've hardly had a bra on over the last few weeks during this heatwave and it's been so much more comfortable. I'm also pre-menopausal and taking flushings and it's amazing how much cooler I feel without a bra on!

    I'm really glad that you enjoyed the hub and hopefully give more women the confidence to go bra free if that's what they want to do?

  • jcressler profile image

    James E Cressler 4 years ago from Orlando, Florida

    Voted up and interesting...of course I'm not equipped to need a bra, but would vote for braless!

  • annart profile image

    Ann Carr 4 years ago from SW England

    Voted up, interesting and useful. I find that, like you, I tend to wear a bra when I go out or for social occasions. However, when it's hot in summer it's positively uncomfortable to wear one so if possible I go without, that is if I'm wearing something that already supports or is baggy and doesn't show that I'm not wearing one. Around the house I usually go without. Measuring for the right size is really important. I like your point about nature not providing one! It's also interesting to know that general exercise improves the breast muscles. Great article and one every woman should read, therefore shared.

  • Seeker7 profile image

    Helen Murphy Howell 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi Sparklea, many thanks for stopping by and glad that you enjoyed the hub.

    I'm with you, I've never found a bra that I can honestly saw was comfortable and as soon as I can, I remove my bra and relax!

  • Sparklea profile image

    Sparklea 4 years ago from Upstate New York

    Seeker7: Voted up and useful. Thank you for providing great information with this phenomenal hub. You certainly answer a lot of questions I have. I HATE wearing a bra, and it has been very difficult to find one that is actually comfortable. It comes off at suppertime and throughout the evening! Thanks again for this super interesting topic which will benefit we women who need to be informed. Blessings, Sparklea :)

  • Seeker7 profile image

    Helen Murphy Howell 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi Phylis, what a wonderful and interesting comment to leave - I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this hub.

    Yes, I have heard women say that bras caused them tension in their shoulders and their neck, that gave them headaches as well. When they took their bra off, the tension was relaxed and of course they felt so much more comfortable as well.

    I do tend to wear a bra when going out socially really because the tops that I have are not really suitable for wearing without a bra. But, I think I will shop around and follow your lead, by looking for tops that are not revealing by being loose.

    I love the 'Bra Fence' - this is amazing! Here's hoping it is a change toward women getting the confidence and freedom to go without the dreaded bra!!! And yes, definitely returning to a state that Mother Nature herself created!

  • Seeker7 profile image

    Helen Murphy Howell 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi Rosemay, lovely to hear from you as always. Don't apologise, I kind of guessed you had been very busy but also glad that you are okay as well.

    LOL!!! I love the freedom of being without a bra - its great!! And yes, usually the first thing I do is get the darn thing off as soon as I possibly can on getting home - its bliss!!!! I'm about average boob size and so far I've been fortunate that gravity hasn't started to do nasty tricks yet - like dragging my boobs towards my toes! But even if it does, it just feels so good without a bra, that I would continue bra-less anyway!!! LOL!!

  • Seeker7 profile image

    Helen Murphy Howell 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi lovedoctor926, many thanks for stopping by and glad that you found the hub interesting. I tend to agree with most things you say and certainly when going out I always wear a bra and would feel very uncomfortable without one. But I have to say after getting used to going around my home, bra free, it feels wonderful!! I'm also like you, I don't sleep with a bra and yes, so far gravity has been good to me as well!!

  • Phyllis Doyle profile image

    Phyllis Doyle Burns 4 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

    Seeker, I am SO glad I found this hub you wrote. I was a late developer, so did not wear a bra till I was almost 14. I hated it and have always hated it. Wearing a bra creates tension in my shoulder muscles, which in turn gives me a stiff neck -- not to mention the constant slipping of the bra straps because I have slightly sloping shoulders. For the last several years, I never wear a bra around home and often do not wear a bra when I go out in public. My solution is to wear a top that is lose and non- revealing. There are times when for modesty sake I wear a bra when I go out. Today, many women's dress styles are such that a bra would take away from the alluring femininity. Since I stopped wearing a bra constantly, I do not have tenderness and swelling, nor do I have tension in my muscles. I do daily exercise to keep my upper chest muscles firm and fit -- this helps greatly to give form to the tops I wear and is much more comfortable.

    Thank you so much for writing this informative hub about a subject that has bugged probably most women all their life. Up, Useful, Interesting. Well done, Seeker.

    PS: I once saw a photo on the internet of "The Bra Fence" where women tossed or tied their bras to the fence. There were hundreds of bras dicarded there. I wonder, is that a sign of change to come.... returning to Nature?

  • Rosemay50 profile image

    Rosemary Sadler 4 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

    Hi Helen, sorry I haven't been around been an extremely busy few weeks.

    I'm with you, I never wear a bra at home, love the freedom and when I go out can't wait to take it off as soon as I get home. besides I don't have a great deal to support. Lol

  • profile image

    lovedoctor926 4 years ago

    Interesting & well-written hub. I always wear a bra when I go out. Even to the gym, I always wear a sports bra.I would feel naked if I wasn't wearing one. There's nothing sexy or classy about nipples poking through a shirt. I don't wear a bra at night and so far, gravity has been good to me. voted up++

  • Seeker7 profile image

    Helen Murphy Howell 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi Rasma, I'm the same as you my friend - I love the comfort and freedom of being braless, especially about the house - absolute bliss! And like Catgypsy, if I am out, one of the first things I do when I get home, is to take the dam bra off!

  • Seeker7 profile image

    Helen Murphy Howell 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi innerspin, I think the majority of women would feel very self conscious about not wearing a bra when for example at work or just out and about, and many will also feel as you do, that they don't feel properly dressed if they don't have a bra on. I have to say that a few years ago when I first started keeping a bra off at home, it did feel very strange and yes I was self conscious about it. But it was so dam comfy and I certainly had less breast pain every month, so I persevered and you do get used to it. But again, every woman has to do what she feels its right for her.

  • Seeker7 profile image

    Helen Murphy Howell 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi catgypsy, I'm with you, the first thing I do when I get home or if I know I'm not going anywhere is take the bra off. I have never found one yet that was comfortable to wear for more than a couple of hours at the most. It's so dam wonderful when you finally take the thing off - bliss!!!!

  • Seeker7 profile image

    Helen Murphy Howell 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi laydeonne, many thanks for stopping by and glad that you found the hub interesting - and yes it is worrying about this research and where it may be leading. Hopefully the article will give women more information and help with their own choice about whether or not to wear a bra.

    Ps - many thanks for passing the hub on - greatly appreciated!!

  • Seeker7 profile image

    Helen Murphy Howell 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    LOL!!! Frank! You really have to take this seriously!!! LOL! I was just on my way over to your section with all those wonderful stories, but at the moment I'm laughing too much. I'll need to calm down before I take a look at your spine chilling, tense stories - I like to experience the proper emotions and can't do it while laughing!!

  • Seeker7 profile image

    Helen Murphy Howell 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi torrilynn, many thanks for stopping by and for the vote up - greatly appreciated. I think the 'wear a bra/don't wear a bra' debate will go on for a while, but some of the research is a bit disturbing.

  • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

    Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

    Thanks for sharing this interesting and informative hub. I never wear a bra around the house. Just loose and comfortable clothing. Passing this on.

  • innerspin profile image

    Kim Kennedy 4 years ago from uk

    Thought provoking hub. I read somewhere that underwired bras can be too restrictive, so don't use them, though it can be hard to find non-wired. I have to say, I'd feel wrong going without one during the day.

  • catgypsy profile image

    catgypsy 4 years ago from the South

    Very interesting. I had heard this recently and wondered about it. Like you, I never wear a bra in the house, only when I go out and then would prefer not to. They are so uncomfortable! I'm so bad that the very first thing I do when I get home is take my bra off...haha!

  • ladydeonne profile image

    Deonne Anderson 4 years ago from Florence, SC

    I truly enjoyed reading this hub. I had never thought about or questioned the origin of bras. I found the history of the bra very interesting and revealing. The fact that the wearing of a bra is linked to breast cancer was astonishing. I will start wearing a bra only when I go out in public or when people come to my home as a precaution. Right now, I only take off my bra when I go to bed. This information has been very helpful and useful. It could save a life. I am passing it on.

  • Frank Atanacio profile image

    Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

    okay.. that does it Im going to wear a bra..:) kinda giggled like a school boy reading this hub Seeker...:) lol but good information you have here

  • torrilynn profile image

    torrilynn 4 years ago

    @Seeker7 i would have never thought of looking at a bra as being detrimental to ones health. Thanks for the information. Voted up.