Dr. Robert Mansel -- "When one looks at where there's positive evidence that bras are good for health, that evidence does not exist, because the groups that don't wear bras, the civilizations of people who don't wear bras, tend to be from the groups having lower breast cancer incidences. There is no positive evidence that bra wearing is good for the breast. Cysts and pain are areas where the facts really are quite sparse. I think the right thing is to do the experiment and see if there's any effect, and that's exactly why I've gone into this enterprise. Breast pain is a major problem. We've been studying it for 25 years now. It's very common - something like 60 or 70 % of women at some time experience it. And it's very hard to treat and so those features alone makes it a very important problem."
Narrator -- What could link the work of these doctors with Singer's is not cancer, but much more common though far less publicized complaints like breast pain and cysts.
Dr. Marlene Schuytvlot, registrar of the Bristol Breast Care
"All the lymphatic flow seems to come from the breast
towards the skin and then out into the lymphatic drainage
systems. By wearing a bra that is constricting, that could
constrict the main flow from the lymph to the draining
system, then can therefore accumulate in the breast, which
in theory could cause cyst formation."
Rae Marsh, childcare worker, suffers from cysts and severe breast pain. She says, "Having breast pain is really hard to live with, because it affects you on so many different levels. Just things like picking your children up. If your breast pain's bad, picking your children up just makes it hurt so much more that you just can't hug the children the way you'd hug them if you didn't have the breast pain. Walking along a street, it hurts to walk, it's not about having large breasts, it's about having just every step hurt. And it can just be so uncomfortable that you just feel miserable all the time, and it's just an ongoing ache."
Narrator -- So Dispatches (the documentary program from Channel 4-UK) asked Prof. Mansel in Cardiff and Mr. Cawthorne in Bristol to devise a study to test the proposition that there might be a link between breast pain and cysts and the bra. A six-month trial, which is what they proposed, could not explore any immediate link with cancer, since that takes much longer to develop. The doctors are going to ask women who attend their breast clinic to join in, women either with cysts or regular breast pain. And with cysts always comes the fear of cancer.
Lynne Holliday -- "There is always anxiety. You can
never quite be sure that it's just a cyst."
Marian Gooden -- "I just seem to grow them, like people grow weeds in their garden. It's almost like a toothache in your breast. They become incredibly painful. You sort of walk around almost holding your breasts, because you are trying to ease the pain in your breasts."
1. For the study, they want a hundred women to wear a bra for three months and go without one for another three months. The women will also have ultrasound scans to see what's happening to their cysts, and keep daily records of their pain.
2. Bras are marketed on sex appeal and as essential for support. Yet there is no medical evidence to support the widely held belief that bras prevent the breasts from
Dr. Mansel - "We've got stretching of the breasts ligaments and drooping in later life, that occurs very regularly anyway, and that's a function of weight, often of the heavy breast, and those women are wearing bras, but it doesn't prevent it."
Playtex (a bra manufacturer in England) executive, John Dixey -- "We have no evidence that wearing a bra could prevent sagging, because the breast itself is not muscle, so keeping it toned up is an impossibility. What it can do, particularly for larger-breasted women, is obviously to provide the comfort and the support. So, if a woman wants a particular breast profile, she will buy a particular brand, and that is what they're designed for. There's no permanent effect on the breast from wearing a particular bra. The bra will give you the shape the bra's been designed to give while you're wearing it. Of course, when you take it off, you go 'au natural.' "
Narrator -- After three months living without a bra, some of the women have noticed a difference.
1. Elaine Kirton -- "I've noticed less pain since I've started going braless. It's like a bruised achy pain that I get. Well that's lessened definitely."
2. Rae Marsh -- "I started going brafree 9 or 10 weeks ago. And at first, you felt awful that you were the (first) people to be on the study going brafree. And as the weeks have gone on, it's become much much easier to be without pain. I get the odd days of twinges rather than days of absolute agony. I'm finding more concern about having to go back to the end of the trial to wearing a bra for the final three months. So, from dreading being braless, I'm now dreading being a bra wearer."
Narrator -- As the second half of the trial gets underway, Prof. Mansel draws our attention to another potential problem with wearing a bra, the effect it has on the temperature of the breast.
dr. Mansel -- we know that wearing a bra, the breast is hotter, and there have been studies done of measuring breast skin temperature and it can show hotter areas and cancers are associated with hotter areas of course."
Narrator -- One way of measuring the temperature of the breast is by thermography. Using a heat sensitive camera, a specialist in this technique, Prof. Francis Ring, uses thermography to show that a breast without a bra is cooler.
Prof. Ring (pointing to a live video thermogram of a woman while she is wearing and then ot wearing a bra) -- "You can see a buildup of heat here at the lower edge of the garment, which is caused by pressure on the skin. When the garment is removed, the areas of pressure are shown as hotter areas and a band is visible on the side view showing where the maximum pressure was in this garment. There is some increased heat approximately
overlying the area of the seam, where of course the material has more than one thickness."
Dr. Cawthorne -- It may be that the bra is producing a heating effect on the breast resulting in the breast secreting more fluid. At the moment we don't know, but it is possible that a cooler is a healthier breast from the point of view of producing less fluid, producing less cysts and producing less pain."
Narrator -- Another three months have gone by and the trial period is over. Several women who have taken part now have a radically different attitude to wearing bras.
Lawrenza Nicholls -- "I think that the advertisements, you know, they say "comfort, control and support" on the packaging. And so you just continue wearing the bras, don't you. You don't think for one minute there's the possibility that the bra could be giving you the pain. But after three months of not wearing a bra, the conclusion that I've come to is "contain, restrain, and pain" wearing a bra."
Lynn Holliday (who has gone back to wearing bras even though her condition had improved while braless) -- "I know I shouldn't be wearing a bra. I know I shouldn't, just like I know I shouldn't be eating the things that I eat. But, it's habit; it's being the same as everybody else. I don't want people to look at me and think, "She isn't wearing a bra, strange woman at her age, what is she doing?" So, I conform, I suppose."
Rae Marsh (who is shown taking off her blouse and showing off her burgundy-colored camisole, and then shown taking it off, putting her old bra on, and then taking off the bra in disgust) -- "I actually feel nicer in this (camisole) than I ever did in this (bra). It's sexier; it's nicer; it's a nicer feel. It (the bra) does sort
of pull your boobs around for you. And the long-term aches and pains, this is the sort of, you know, the "underwire, hold-it-all-still type" bra. It's just so uncomfortable that you soon lose the novelty value of wanting to wear it (the bra), so for me that's been the answer - get rid of bra."
Narrator - The daily records the women have kept show a marked difference between post-menopausal women and those still having periods. Women with periods who used to suffer pain wearing a bra, found that they had significantly more pain-free days without one. The percentage of days when the pain was moderate to severe was halved. For some individuals like Rae, it feels even better than that.
Rae Marsh - "The results of this breast study has given me back my freedom. I can pick the children up whenever I want to. I can do anything and the breast pain has now for me gone more and more into the background. I'm not anxious about my breast lumps because the pain's not there so you don't have it constantly on your mind and worrying about it. I get on with life; I enjoy life more. I don't have to have a constant pain all the time."