While wearing a bra is seldom comfortable, yet to many women it's the most basic and necessary of clothing items. Unless one is blessed with a flat chest, it's considered unsightly to appear in public without one. Perky and uplifted is the style, so anyone well endowed or aging needs a gently "push-up" to keep those ladies in line.
However, there are disturbing studies that associate wearing a bra with the incidence of cancer. In their book "Dressed to Kill", Sidney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer came up with these grisly statistics regarding the chances of breast cancer in women:
3 out of 4 if they wear bras 24 hours a day;
1 out of 7 if they wear them more than 12 hours but not to bed;
1 out of 52 if they wear them less than 12 hours;
1 out of 168 if they wear them seldom or never.
These are only the figures for breast cancer, they don't include women who have breast fibrocysts and breast pain.
The link between bra wearing and breast cancer is 3 times greater than the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer!
Preventing breast cancer is all about maintaining good lymphatic circulation, which means movement. Women with sedentary jobs or lifestyles need to move more, and they need to wear less restrictive clothing. Shoes, girdles, underwire bras and anything tight enough to cause red markings on the body should be avoided. Letting the breasts move freely is healthy.
Rather than wearing an underwire bra, wear a sports bra. Even better than a sports bra is any bra that is just slightly too large, so there can be some breast movement. Best of all is wearing a camisole.
There is a myth that says the breasts need to be properly supported to keep them strong and avoid sagging, but gravity takes over regardless. It's more a matter of the proportions of fat and tissue - since there is no muscle tissue in breasts, it's impossible to "keep them in shape". Research has shown that chest ligaments require weight bearing and movement, as provided by the breasts, to maintain strength and structure.
Anecdotally, women have reported the disappearance of fibrocysts after going bra-less for two months; also, the disappearance of various discomforts associated with PMS, menstruation and menopause.
Each woman has to make her own choices and compromises. However, just knowing that freedom of movement is imperative to breast health will help every woman make the best choices based on individual circumstances, preferences, and compromises. Every woman owes it to herself to become educated and aware.