Most women have experience wearing underwire bras. However, most women may not know that some scientists believe underwire bras are a potential health hazard.
One of the most alarming concerns regarding underwire bras was discovered in the early 90s. One scientific study found that underwire bras contributed to breast cancer.
The theory was based around antiperspirant chemicals, which are absorbed through the skin. The study claims underwire bras prevent the release of toxins from sweat. Since the wearer’s body is unable to drain lymph fluid from the bottom of her breast while wearing an underwear, she has a greater risk of developing cancer.
At the time, the paper caused a great deal of alarm. However, the study was quickly disproved, with other scientists pointing out that sweating is not a significant way for a person’s body to release chemicals. Instead, the kidneys remove most cancer-causing substances.
However, while underwire bras are not capable of causing breast cancer, there are still other health risks to consider. Underwire bras can contribute to the conditions described below.
Neck and Back Pain
One of the common health concerns associated with wearing underwire bras is neck and back pain. Women with larger breasts are more likely to experience pain than women with smaller breasts.
Generally, when you wear an underwire bra, your neck and back experience added pressure from the weight of your supported breasts. Additionally, the longer you own an underwire bra, the more the bra stretches. This means that the bra begins to lose support, aggravating pain in your neck and back.
Neck pain often leads to cervicogenic headaches. These headaches are distinct because only one side of your head hurts. The pain of cervicogenic headaches generally starts from the base of your neck or behind your eyes, similar to a migraine.
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Additionally, bra wearers commonly experience shoulder and back pain. This can be from the weight of the breasts pulling the straps down or from the discomfort of a tight band.
Women can avoid these issues by wearing a well-fitted underwire bra. However, even with a correctly sized underwire bra, the structure of the fabric wears down over time. It can be costly to replace worn-down bras regularly, which means most women keep bras well after it begins to lose support.
Wearing underwire bras leads to an increased risk of certain skin problems. Some of the potential skin problems bras can cause include the following:
- Cuts or punctures from exposed wire.
- Contact dermatitis from the underwire in the bra.
- General irritation and possible infection.
These skin problems are primarily caused by chafing from the underwire of the bra along your skin. The more the bra chafes against you, the more it gets worn away.
Even something as simple as taking off and putting on your bra technically causes chafing. If you live a particularly active lifestyle, you are more likely to experience regular chafing and subsequent irritation.
Additionally, it is not uncommon for underwire bras to be built with inexpensive metals to cut down on costs. Over time as the fabric wears down, the wire can meet skin and cause contact dermatitis. Even if the wire does not cause pain, the continual contact may cause an itchy rash to develop.
Blocked Milk Ducts
Underwire bras pose even more health risks for nursing mothers. Wearing a bra while nursing may impede the flow of milk. In severe cases, it causes milk to pool in your breasts, which comes with numerous health issues.
Too much milk building in your breast can block your milk ducts, leading to mastitis. Mastitis is a painful condition which can cause you to become sick in a short period of time and requires strong antibiotics to treat.
Although all bras can do this, underwire bras are particularly bad because the underwire bra is tighter and more constrictive. Therefore, you should avoid underwire bras entirely while nursing.
If you are planning to breastfeed, your best option is to purchase maternity camisoles. Maternity camisoles are loose fitting and do not contain any wires in the bust. Additionally, they are designed to support your back, belly and midriff.
If you exercise or participate in any sports, the last thing you want to wear is an underwire bra. This is because underwire bras can cause severe irritation with intense movement.
When you are physically active, every part of your body moves, including your breasts. The more your breasts move around, the more worn out your underwire bra becomes.
Even new underwire bras quickly break down if you are actively working out or playing a sport. The more the bra breaks down, the less support it provides.
Wearing an underwire bra while you are physically active generally becomes uncomfortable quickly. It can also do damage to your breasts and skin over time. If you are physically active, you need to invest in a strong, supportive bra to minimize your movements.
What are the alternatives to underwire bras?
There are many women who purchase underwire bras because there are no other alternatives. Despite the health risks, there are still many stores selling primarily underwire bras. In addition, underwire bras are often the most reasonably priced.
An affordable alternative to the underwire bra is to purchase a wire free full coverage bra. Instead of using wires to provide support, the full coverage bra uses adjustable straps, allowing you to easily alter the bra to suit your needs.
Another option is the T-shirt bra. A T-shirt bra has a basic design, with no design choices that create lumps when worn underneath a T-shirt. It is a good choice if you work long office hours, since it goes well with many professional outfits and is comfortable to wear throughout the day.
When you work out or play sports you need to invest in a wireless sports bra. A sports bra will minimize the movement of your breasts and will not chafe against your skin.
For athletes, the best choice is a double layer sports bra. This style of sports bra keeps sweat off of your skin, keeping your chest cool and dry. The front outer panel is adjustable, making it suitable for low or high impact activities.
Many women avoid sports because of the associated breast pain that can come from wearing an ill-fitting or unsuitable bra. This can lead to inactivity and obesity in their senior years. By investing in a good sports bra early, women can maintain an active and healthy lifestyle.
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