Dressed to Kill (book)
First edition cover
|Author||Soma Grismaijer, Sydney Ross Singer|
|Publisher||ISCD Press; Avery Publishing Group/Penguin Putnam|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
|LC Class||RC280.B8 S53 1995|
Dressed to Kill is a book by Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer that proposes a link between bras and breast cancer. According to the authors, the restrictive nature of a brassiere inhibits the lymphatic system. The book's claim that bras cause breast cancer has been dismissed by the medical and scientific communities; the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, and the National Institutes of Health have all concluded that there is no link between bra use and breast cancer.
In their book, Singer and Grismaijer argue that bra-wearing may be a major cause of breast cancer because of the purported effect of the bra on lymphatic circulation. Their interpretation is that constriction from tightly worn bras inhibits the proper functioning of the lymphatic system and leads to a buildup of fluid within the breast tissue. In addition, they state carcinogenic substances that we take into our bodies through petrochemically polluted food, air and water course throughout the body, including the breast tissue, and need to be flushed from the tissues by the lymphatic system. Hence, bra-induced constriction of the breast lymphatic vessels, according to the authors, concentrates these toxins within the breast tissue, which may ultimately lead to cancer.
Singer and Grismaijer claim 70% of breast cancer cases are unexplainable by the then-current [as of 1995] known risk factors for breast cancer. In addition, the authors claim that breast cancer is only a problem in cultures where women wear bras; in bra-free cultures, breast cancer is a rare event. In Dressed To Kill, they argue that women who wear a bra 24 hours a day are 125 times more likely to have breast cancer than women who are bra-free. Their study also claims that bra-free women have about the same incidence of breast cancer as men.
Singer and Grismaijer claim to have noticed that the Māori of New Zealand, who are integrated into white culture and therefore wear bras, have the same rate of breast cancer, while the aboriginals of Australia, who are bra-free, have practically no breast cancer. The same was true for “Westernized” Japanese, Fijians and other bra-converted cultures.
Singer and Grismaijer examined the bra wearing attitudes and behaviors of over 4,700 US women in 5 major cities. They claim about half of the women questioned had had breast cancer. Women who had had breast cancer were asked about their bra-wearing habits prior to their diagnosis of cancer. Although they did not adhere to any scientific protocols for a medical study, the authors hoped that the medical industry would follow-up with further research to either verify or refute their findings. Their study findings were:
- 3 out of 4 women who wore their bras 24 hours per day developed breast cancer.
- 1 out of 7 women who wore bras more than 12 hour per day but not to bed developed breast cancer.
- 1 out of 152 women who wore their bras less than 12 hours per day got breast cancer.
- 1 out of 168 women who wore bras rarely or never acquired breast cancer.
The authors published these claims in Dressed to Kill. The book generated controversy which the authors attributed the greed of the fashion and medical industries: "The bra industry is a multi-billion dollar enterprise. And billions of dollars are spent each year researching and treating this disease. Ironically, ending breast cancer can cause financial hardship for many people." 
The authors are a husband-and-wife team who describe themselves as pioneers in "applied medical anthropology". They are the founders and co-directors of the Institute for the Study of Culturogenic Disease (ISCD), located in Hawaii. Sydney Ross Singer received a bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Utah in 1979. He then enrolled in PhD training in biochemistry at Duke University, and later transferred to the PhD program in anthropology, also at Duke University. Duke University gave him a master's degree in anthropology when he left the PhD program there. Singer later attended the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, where he entered but did not complete the MD/PhD program.
Soma Grismaijer holds a bachelor's degree in environmental studies and planning. She was trained as an optician (a healthcare worker who fits eyeglasses and contact lenses), and is not licensed in their home state of Hawaii.
After self-publishing Dressed to Kill, they wrote another book about the dangers of wearing bras and several other books, in which they argue that sleeping on a tilted bed can prevent everything from Alzheimer's disease to impotence; that defecating, urinating and sweating more frequently and more copiously can prevent many conditions such as prostate enlargement and the symptoms associated with menopause; and, in The Doctor Is Out! Exposing the High Blood Pressure, Low Thyroid and Diabetes Scams, even that these three lifestyle changes can prevent high blood pressure, low thyroid conditions, and diabetes. This last book also argues that physicians overlook these solutions at least in part because they do not earn any money from a healthy patient.
They live in Hawaii, on a 67-acre (270,000 m2) rainforest area that they have set up as a sanctuary for the invasive, non-native coqui tree frog species. Their current focus is on the dangers of sleeping on a horizontal surface.
Medical and scientific bodies which have examined the book's claims have generally dismissed them on the basis of poor methodology, lack of supporting evidence, and Singer and Grismaijer's failure to consider alternate explanations besides bra use for their findings.
One specific critique of the their book by Martha Molete of the Cancer Association of South Africa argues that numerous aspects of the book's claims are scientifically unsubstantiated or unproven, citing:
- Lack of controlled epidemiological data correlating bra-wearing with the risk for breast cancer
- Lack of proof that the pressure exerted by a bra reduces the flow of lymph
- Lack of proof that lymph contains carcinogens
- Lack of proof that there are carcinogens in the human body that can induce breast cancer
- Existence of published data correlating obesity with post-menopausal breast cancer
None of the authors' surveys have attempted to account for any of the well-known epidemiological risk factors for breast cancer, such as number of full-term pregnancies, age at first pregnancy, obesity, Western pattern diet, or use of medications such as hormone replacement therapy. Per Molete, "the authors' statistical treatment of their obtained data appears to be flawed. They do not include the data or a detailed description of the statistical treatment of the data. The two groups, i.e. those wearing bras and those that did not, were not controlled for many other factors influencing the risk of breast cancer." In addition, study participants knew the hypothesis before taking the survey.
The authors' proposal that bras block the lymphatic system which lead to accumulated toxins and cancer was also debunked by an unrelated study. The National Institutes of Health examined cancer rates among women who had their underarm lymph nodes removed as part of melanoma treatment: "The surgery, which is known to block lymph drainage from breast tissue, did not detectably increase breast cancer rates, the study found, meaning that it is extremely unlikely that wearing a bra, which affects lymph flow minimally if at all, would do so."
No supporting research
A survey of the MEDLINE/PubMed database revealed no published scientific studies supporting a link between bra wearing and breast cancer risk. Furthermore, no scientific publications were found which were authored by Singer or Grismaijer.
The Molete article also discusses the one scientific study that examined the relationship between breast cancer and bra use. This study, among 3,918 cases and 11,712 controls from 7 centers in the United States, found that premenopausal women who do not wear bras had half the risk of breast cancer compared with bra users (P about 0.09). The authors offer the hypothesis that women who do not wear bras are thinner and likely to have smaller breasts. The same study found that among postmenopausal women only bra users with larger breasts had an increased risk of breast cancer (P about 0.026). The study suggests bra cup size is a proxy for greater weight and obesity which are known risk factors for breast cancer, and that the apparent risk associated with bra use is more likely a reflection of known risk factors for breast cancer, such as obesity.
Other medical and scientific bodies uniformly reject the book's claims about bras and breast cancer:
- The National Cancer Institute (US) states that bras have not been shown to increase a woman's risk of breast cancer.
- Breastcancer.org specifically answers this question, relating to bras and how breasts are touched.
- The American Cancer Society states, "There are no scientifically valid studies that show wearing bras of any type causes breast cancer."
- The U.S. National Institutes of Health states, "Breast implants, using antiperspirants, and wearing underwire bras do not raise your risk for breast cancer."
- In 2000, as a follow-up to misreporting of a UK study, British health professionals and "Cancer charities" stated that bras cause no increase in breast cancer risk.
- Fact Sheet on Breast Cancer Risk Factors, from the U.S. National Cancer Institute. Accessed July 10, 2008.
- Bras and Breast Cancer, from the American Cancer Society. Accessed July 10, 2008.
- Breast Cancer Information from MedlinePlus. Accessed July 10, 2008.
- Singer, Sydney Ross (2007). "Bras Still Cause Breast Cancer: Are Your Patients Dressed To Kill?". The Herbal Advisor.com. Archived from the original on 2008-10-26. Retrieved 2008-06-23.
- Grismaijer, Soma; Singer, Sydney (2002). Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras. ISCD Press. ISBN 0-89529-664-0.pp. 128-131
- "About The Authors -- The Self Study Center". The Self Study Center. Retrieved 2008-06-22.
- "Professional and Vocational Licensing (PVL) - powered by eHawaii.gov". Retrieved 2008-06-22.
- Grismaijer, Soma; Singer, Sydney (2001). Get It Off! Understanding the Cause of Breast Pain, Cysts, and Cancer, Illustrated with A Little Breast Play. ISCD Press. ISBN 1-930858-01-9.
- Grismaijer, Soma; Singer, Sydney (2000). Get It Up! Revealing the Simple Surprising Lifestyle that Causes Migraines, Alzheimer's, Stroke, Glaucoma, Sleep Apnea, Impotence,...and More!. ISCD Press. ISBN 1-930858-00-0.
- Grismaijer, Soma; Singer, Sydney (2001). Get It Out! Eliminating the Cause of Diverticulitis, Kidney Stones, Bladder Infections, Prostate Enlargement, Menopausal Discomfort, Cervical Dysplasia, PMS, and More. Iscd Pr. ISBN 1-930858-02-7.
- Grismaijer, Soma; Singer, Sydney (2001). The Doctor Is Out! Exposing the High Blood Pressure, Low Thyroid and Diabetes Scams. ISCD Press. ISBN 1-930858-04-3. "It's easy to see how high blood pressure has become a major medical scam. [Sample quotation, page 12] Blood pressure measurements can be whatever the doctor wants them to be. [Sample quotation, page 14]"
- Grismaijer, Soma; Singer, Sydney (2001). The Doctor Is Out! Exposing the High Blood Pressure, Low Thyroid and Diabetes Scams. ISCD Press. pp. xi (also page 5, and elsewhere throughout the book). ISBN 1-930858-04-3. "Doctors make money when you are sick. Treating sick people is, after all, the business of medicine. If you stay healthy, or worse still for your doctor, if you recover from a disease by yourself, then the doctor doesn't get paid. Neither does the druggist, the hospital or the mortician."
- Grismaijer, Soma; Singer, Sydney (2005). Panic in Paradise: Invasive Species Hysteria and the Hawaiian Coqui Frog War. ISCD Press. ISBN 1-930858-07-8.
- Molete, Martha (2008). "Can wearing a bra cause breast cancer?". Cancer Society of South Africa. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
- Ray, C. Claiborne (2010). "Q & A Bras and Cancer". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
- Hsieh CC, Trichopoulos D; Trichopoulos, D. (1991). "Breast size, handedness and breast cancer risk". European Journal of Cancer and Clinical Oncology 27 (2): 131–134. doi:10.1016/0277-5379(91)90469-T. PMID 1827274.
- "Can Wearing a Bra all the Time Cause Cancer?". Breastcancer.org. 2007-03-14. Retrieved 2012-01-14.
- "Claims of bra link to cancer dismissed". BBC. 2000-10-30. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
- Stuart, Julia (2000-11-02). "Don't burn your bra just yet". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
- Breast Cancer Prevention Study by the Authors
- 1997 Book review by Cindy Pearson, Executive Director of the National Women’s Health Network. Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman, chairperson of the Network Board of Directors, and Virginia Soffa, M.Ed., breast cancer activist and author
- 2007 Scientific American article that lays out criticisms of Dressed to Kill
- 2010 Q&A Article in New York Times noting there is no link between bra use and cancer