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Ross: The Mammogram Scam

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By  Sydney Ross Singer

About 20 years ago, when I was in medical school, I remember reading about the bold experiment our culture was about to undertake to deal with the rising tide of breast cancer.

Without having any knowledge as to the cause of this disease, which would allow true breast cancer prevention, it was reasoned that the best alternative to prevention was early detection and treatment. Towards this end, a massive mammogram experiment began.

I paid little attention to this at the time. Breast cancer was not a personal issue for me, and the theory that early detection and treatment was the best option seemed reasonable.

In the absence of knowing the cause of a disease, all you can do is hope you don’t get it, and look for early signs to attack the problem before it is too late.

When my wife discovered a lump in her breast, the issue took on a new meaning. She was pregnant at the time, and we were reluctant to go through the radiation of a mammogram.

We were also wary of the next steps in the process. Once a suspicious lump is discovered, there will be a biopsy. A biopsy can spread cancer, since tumors grow within a capsule that contains the malignant cells. Piercing the capsule to get a tissue sample with a biopsy, even using only a needle, can spread the cancer cells throughout the breast and the rest of the body.

So a biopsy could make things worse. And then there are surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, none of which were acceptable to us.

What nagged at us most was the big question of WHY? Why did this lump develop? Without understanding the cause of the problem, how could we effectively cure it or prevent it from happening again?

The medical industry offered no answers to the question of WHY. The cause of breast cancer, they said, has something to do with genetics, and lifestyle, although they admit they cannot explain the cause for over 70% of all breast cancer cases.

Without knowing more, they said, all you can do is look for the tumor and treat it as soon as possible. Getting regular mammograms, they insisted, was the best a woman can do.

Of course, you cannot prevent a disease by looking for it. Once you find it, you’ve got it. Early detection means you have cancer. This is not prevention, despite claims made in the propaganda campaign to get women to comply with mammogram guidelines.

It is not usually mentioned in that propaganda that mammograms use potentially dangerous x-rays, which are known to cause cancer. Exposure to radiation is also cumulative, which means the chances of these x-rays causing cellular mutation increases with each new exposure.

And recent research has shown that false positives have resulted in unnecessary surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, not to mention the psychological trauma to women and their families resulting from a false cancer diagnosis and treatment.

There are also false negatives. Radiologists have to interpret the mammogram, and they make mistakes. Some may not see a mass, giving the woman a false sense of security.

Surely, if a woman has cancer in her breasts, it is best to detect and treat it early. That would be true for all cancers in all parts of the body.

But does this justify a massive program to get women to routinely submit to x-rays as a screening procedure for disease? Would it make sense, for example, for men to routinely get their testes irradiated with x-rays to look for a tumor? Should we all get annual brain x-rays to scan for tumors? Some people may be saved by this. But most people will be harmed, not only by the x-rays themselves, but also by going through unnecessary treatment caused by false positive results.

Clearly, it is best to know the cause of a disease instead of looking for its early signs for early treatment.

However, once a disease detection and treatment industry develops around a disease, as it has for breast cancer, there becomes an impediment to discovering the cause, since this could undermine that industry.

I discovered first hand that this is exactly what has happened with mammograms and breast cancer.

You see, the cause of breast cancer is really not a mystery, except to those who rely on the cancer treatment industry for their information. According to research my wife and I conducted, most breast cancer is caused by the excessive wearing of tight bras. This should not be a surprise to anyone. If you constrict any part of the body, it will impair circulation and cause tissue degeneration.

Bras are tight by design. Pumped up cleavage and other breast shaping is achieved by constant pressure being applied to the soft breast tissue.

This impairs the flow of the lymphatic system, causing fluid and toxins to accumulate within the breast tissue, which could lead to pain, tenderness, cysts, fibrocystic breast disease, and, ultimately, cancer.

Tight clothing has been implicated in other diseases. Corsets killed women for centuries by constriction and compression. Foot binding in China deformed and decayed feet to satisfy men’s foot fetish.

Now, women bind their breasts in bras. Is it any wonder that breast disease is rampant in bra wearing cultures, and virtually absent in bra-free ones?

What is surprising, and shocking, is that breast cancer researchers have ignored this effect of wearing bras. You would think that the first thing to research with regards to breast disease would be the bra, just as the first thing you would research with regards to foot disease would be tight shoes. Of course, the link between smoking and lung cancer, which now seems obvious, was ignored for over 30 years after the first study showed the connection.

What is most shocking is the suppression of this life saving information about bras causing breast cancer. Once the bra/cancer link was publicized in 1995, the only response from the cancer industry was condemnation and denial.

Follow-up research we conducted in Fiji, showing that the only women getting breast cancer there were those wearing bras, was also ignored.

A study done in 1991 by Harvard researchers which showed bra-free women had a much lower incidence of breast cancer, was also ignored or disparaged. A 2009 China study that shows wearing a bra to sleep increases cancer rates is also being ignored.

The bra industry, of course, has been trying to call the bra/cancer link a “myth”, and has adopted a perverse campaign to promote breast cancer research through bra sales and bra art events.

However, they have also announced their finding that most women wear the wrong size bra, usually too tight a bra, and they are recommending professional fittings to avoid the health hazards of constriction. (Of course, there is no such thing as a well fitted push-up bra, which is constrictive by design.)

Numerous bra manufacturers worldwide have now gone past the denial and are actively promoting the bra/cancer information to sell newly designed and patented bras which they allege can avoid the damage to the lymphatic system caused by other bras.

Most importantly, many women who have heard about the hazards of bras have voluntarily chosen to go bra-free, and their breast health improved dramatically within weeks, if not days. Fibrocystic breast disease should be called “Tight Bra Syndrome”.

In the U.K., women are now getting bra fittings at health clinics, since it was shown that most women seeking breast reduction surgery for breast pain and cysts are suffering from too tight a bra. Clearly, it is better to remove the bra than to surgically remove all or part of the breast.

While this discovery of the bra link is good news for women who wish to prevent breast cancer, it is bad news for the medical industry that is invested in detecting and treating this disease.

I first ran into this disturbing fact in 1995, when our research first came out. We were interviewed by Dateline, an NBC television program. At first, it was going to be an expose of our work, trying to make fun of the idea that bras, an icon of femininity, could be linked to cancer.

However, the show’s producer found a medical historian who backed up our theory, congratulating us on resurrecting the role of the lymphatic system impairment as a cause of cancer, something which had been understood but forgotten over the decades.

You would think this would have helped us, but it ended up killing the story. According to the producer, Dateline has a policy to not air any stories that threaten any of the interests of its parent company, which in the case of NBC is General Electric. As it happens, GE is a manufacturer of mammography machines.

Could the profits of mammography trump the interest in preventing this disease? Before you think the question too cynical, consider the following.

Hoping to do another study to test the bra/cancer theory, (since no other medical research institute, non-profit organization, or governmental body was interested in doing any studies to either refute or support our findings), I approached a radiology practice here in Hawaii, where I live.

My hope was to ask a group of volunteers with fibrocystic breast disease to go bra-free and to use ultrasounds to document any changes in their size and number of cysts over time. The head of the practice was impressed with the bra/lymphatic impairment theory, and was interested in doing a study. However, after asking his partners for their approval, my proposed research was rejected.

As he explained it, they just purchased a new mammography machine, which cost a lot of money, and they were concerned that, if the bra issue was proven correct, women would just stop wearing bras and get fewer mammograms.

So it seems that if you either manufacture or use mammography machines, you prefer women coming for mammograms rather than changing their lifestyles to avoid breast cancer.

The cancer industry has succeeded in making mammography a given fact of Western culture by censoring, suppressing, and ignoring the cause of most cases of breast cancer.

And now, when the United States Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of doctors, has declared the mammogram experiment a failure, women scream for their mammograms. They have become hooked on detection, brainwashed by the very industry that profits from their fear and lack of information, and which, through annual fundraising drives and awareness programming, keep women coming to irradiate their breasts to find tumors in the name of prevention.

It all began as a social experiment to promote detection and early treatment in the absence of knowing the cause. It evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry that now has to protect itself from the cause.

Sydney Ross Singer is a medical anthropologist, Director of the Institute for the Study of Culturogenic Disease, and co-author of the numerous groundbreaking books exposing the cultural/lifestyle causes of disease, including the bestseller, Dressed To Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras (Avery/Penguin Putnam, 1995; ISCD Press, 2005). He works with his wife and assistant, Soma Grismaijer, and offers an online do-it-yourself lifestyle research website, http://www.SelfStudyCenter.org.

Sydney Ross Singer can be reached at the Institute for the Study of Culturogenic Disease, P.O. Box 1880, Pahoa, Hawaii 96778 (808) 935-5563.

7 Responses to “Ross: The Mammogram Scam”

  1. ellis seawell says:

    Does wearing a bra increase the chances you’ll get breast cancer? There has been some rumor mongering in this regard. In this article, we take a look at whether there is any correlation and where the rumor comes from.

    There is no correlation between wearing bras and an increased risk of breast cancer. So says the American Cancer Society. In fact, the Society doesn’t deny or affirm an increased risk of cancer. Why? No medically relevant studies have been done on the issue, thus nobody really knows. That may seem stunning given the concerns surrounding breast cancer, but it is a simple fact.

    So, how did all these rumors arise? The web is a wonderful place, but it is also one where anyone can say practically anything and get away with it. The bras-breast cancer rumor appears to have arisen from the “Dressed to Kill” book. The book was written by Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer, two anthropologists. They assert that a bra restricts the lymph system causing toxins to build up and cancer to occur.

    Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer are two interesting characters. Singer earned a degree in anthropology from Duke University. Grismaijer has no known degree, but is believed to be an optician. It is unclear how these two non-medical figures feel qualified to draw conclusions on breast cancer any more than you or I, but they did when they self published Dressed to Kill.

    The conclusions in Dressed to Kill are drawn from the idea of studying women in different situations. Singer and Grismaijer looked at women wearing bras versus women who do not. They allegedly found that those not wearing bras showed rare cases of breast cancer while women wearing bras suffered far more instances. There is no consideration of other issues such as diet, environmental causes and so forth.

    To really get a taste of the views of Singer and Grismaijer, you need to consider their work after the bra “studies”. At last glance, they were self publishing books on the evil of sleeping horizontally. This apparently is the cause of everything from prostate cancer to Alzheimer’s Disease. They are strong proponents of the idea that we should all be sleeping on a slant.

    It is easy to dismiss these two characters based on their haphazard approach to studying medical issues and their unorthodox views. That being said, the relationship between bras and health should be studied closer. I am pretty sure tight pants don’t give men prostrate cancer nor will a tight hat give you brain cancer. Still, the fact nobody has apparently every looked closely at how bras relate to breast health is somewhat shocking. Until then, I’ll wear my bra, but it should be looked at extensively.

    Tiffany Hart writes about issues related to plus size bras for DivaBras.com – where you can find quality name brand bras and bra care instructions to make them last.

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  2. Leo Kretzner says:

    This possibility has little medical support. Even the 1991 study by the Harvard professors mentioned in this article, actually says “Premenopausal women who do not wear bras had half the risk of breast cancer compared with bra users (P about 0.09), possibly because they are thinner and likely to have smaller breasts.”

    It has since been shown that larger breast size does indeed correlate with higher breast cancer rates, b/c larger breasts are due to more fat tissue (even in thin women), which is a source of estrogen and other cell growth-stimulating factors. [Btw, a statistically significant difference is typically indicated by a P value of less than 0.05, so even the difference they noted is not statistically significant.]

    I can find no studies listed in the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed database by the author of the above article. Over 100 articles are returned by PubMed when searching for the combination ‘breast AND cancer AND bra’ including the 1991 study, but none of them support this theory. Try the search for yourself and see:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed

    I am a science writer and molecular biologist. Unlike the author of this article, I have no books to sell. However, in fairness, it must also be said that I found no studies that looked carefully at this issue – eg, comparing groups of women in the same socioeconomic setting and culture with the same size breasts who do and don’t wear bras. Several studies, however, do show that increased breast size somewhat increases the chance of developing breast cancer, specifically in women who are otherwise thin.

    A more probably reason for breast cancer is hormonal, including the effects of environmental estrogen mimics (‘endocrine disruptors) from plastics such as the chemical BPA (bisphenol A) from #7 plastics, which are common in food and beverage containers

    • James says:

      The data in the Harvard study supports the bra/cancer link. The guess by the researchers that this is due breast size is just a guess. It could also be because bras DO cause breast cancer. Clearly, more research is needed. The big question is, why is the research not being done? Given what this article suggests about conflict of interest and profit from this disease, the answer seems clear.

  3. BralessBabe says:

    FINALLY! A man alive somewhere on the planet during my own lifetime that makes sense!! Thank you, Dr. Singer, for this wonderfully informative and timely article that approaches the current ridiculous mammography controversy from multiple perspectives – health, dollars and sense, and corporate greed. I’ve been mostly braless most of my life (53 years), partly for comfort and partly because I fear breast cancer. It makes no sense whatsoever to me to live the vast majority of my life with pretty rubber bands tightly binding my mammary glands, knowing they’re blocking the healthy function of my lymphatic system, just so society thinks I’m a nice girl and I won’t embarrass the men who can’t help themselves but to sneak a peak. Their arrested state of development shouldn’t be my death sentence. I’ll get a mammogram when I feel I have a valid need for one, not a moment sooner. You other men who’ve commented negatively to this article, if you think bras are so healthy, strap yourselves in and practice what you preach.

  4. Lydia says:

    Why is this garbage being published? He wrote the book in 1995 and it was subsequently debunked. Here’s a quote from a Scientific American article addressing this myth

    “Susan Love is president and medical director of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and a former breast cancer surgeon as well as author of Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book, now in its fourth edition. Love agrees that the bra myth comes from the frustration of not knowing what causes the disease, coupled with a desire that the disease should come from the outside, from something a woman can control.”

    • James says:

      The bra/cancer connection has NOT been “debunked”. Opinions that oppose this theory are not scientific evidence, they are just opinions. There are NO studies that refute this link, and several that support it. It makes so much sense.

  5. Mac says:

    “You would think that the first thing to research with regards to breast disease would be the bra, just as the first thing you would research with regards to foot disease would be tight shoes.”

    I recall the foot fluoroscopes that used to be in shoe stores. One was still in a local department store’s shoe department in the late ’50s, though it was not in use. Once it was understood that X-raying your feet every time you went to buy shoes was not a good idea, these machines fell out of use. Of course, they were not anything like as expensive as the modern computerized mammographs and were really just a sales gimmick for shoes.

    “…the link between smoking and lung cancer, which now seems obvious, was ignored for over 30 years after the first study showed the connection.”

    Even today, the mechanism of cancer being caused by tobacco has not been identified. That tobacco is probably the major cause of lung cancer is a statistical association, just as the bra-breast cancer link. Yet, the public is educated to avoid tobacco use. Why should this reasoning not be applied to bra wearing?

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