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By Chere Di Boscio
We need to talk about your boobs, ladies. Your Lolas. The girls. They’re pretty important. They serve to attract a mate, and to feed babies. They look great in a dress. But they’re delicate little flowers, and are prone to getting cancer, so we need to take super good care of these super gorgeous appendages!
Thing is, there’s a lot – and I mean, a LOT – of misinformation and disinformation out there, from women’s magazines, cancer charities, university studies and independent researchers. And somewhere within that lies the truth. Here, I’m going to do my best to give you some top tips for better breast health that will not only keep your breasts healthy and cancer-free, but looking great, too – but as always, do your own research, and see this as a starter guide. If you find out anything important not mentioned here, please share it in the comments section, below.
1. Think About Your Bra
Can underwire bras cause cancer? The debate as to whether or not underwire bras can harm breast health began way back in 1995 with a book called Dressed to Kill, in which Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer, a husband and wife medical anthropologist team, claimed that women who wore tight-fitting bras all day, every day, had a much higher risk of developing breast cancer than those who went braless. The authors claimed that by inhibiting lymphatic drainage, bras trapped toxins in the breast tissue, which caused cancer.
Whilst this claim has been rubbished by many physicians, according to Dr Mercola, other doctors and researchers now agree that wearing a tight fitting bra daily can cut off lymph drainage, which can contribute to the development of breast cancer. Alternative medical practitioners like Dr. George Goodheart – the father of Applied Kinesiology – spoke of his discovery called the “Antenna Effect.” He found that it is possible to tape a small metal ball onto an AcuPoint (acupuncture point), and accomplish longer-term stimulation to that point. Those little BB’s are now called AcuAids and are used by thousands of doctors daily.
This was an important discovery for wearers of underwire bras, because just like those tiny BB’s, any metal that is constantly on a given point on the human body could cause problems. Where that point may be on the body is critical, and unfortunately, underwires fall directly onto two very important neuro-lymphatic reflexes – one under the right breast goes to the liver and gall bladder, and one under the left breast goes to the stomach. According to Goodheart, if a woman constantly has metal over those reflex points, over time that could diminish the functioning of the AcuPoint associated organs, and will likely make her sick, slowly and quietly.
So what to do? First, there’s probably nothing wrong with rocking a push-up every now and then – just not all day, every day. For daily use, try buying a non-underwired bra. This wireless number below by Lucile & Co Lingerie, shows just how sexy non-pushups can be! But if you can’t live without some major volume, ensure your push up is made of plastic, not metal or plastic coated metal – and make sure it fits properly, not too tight.
Whenever you buy a bra, make sure it fits properly. The band should fit snugly and comfortably. Raise your hands above your head. Did the elastic band move? If it’s up your rib cage, try a smaller band size. Or, if the bra has straps, try adjusting them.
Your breasts should never bulge out of your bra- pay close attention to any bulging at the top or by the underarm. There should be no wrinkles or gap around the cups. If the cup fabric is wrinkled, try a smaller size. Ensure there’s nothing rubbing or chafing around your arm holes, straps, seams, hooks, clasps. Finally, after adjusting them to your size, make sure the straps aren’t digging into your shoulders.
2. Avoid Toxic Dyes
Here’s a new one for you: given that dyes used in clothing tend to come out in the wash and fade, why wouldn’t they also come out on your skin when you sweat? This is the concern that Su Dodds, of FROM Clothing, based a business on. After watching Greenpeace’s Toxic Threads campaign for some time, she became concerned with the probability that dye from our clothing could be seeping into our pores – especially from sports bras, which sit close to the lymph nodes and interact with loads of sweat.
Greenpeace has indeed researched this issue and found high levels of cancer-causing phthalates in four garments tested, while nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) were found in 89 garments (63 percent of those tested). These chemicals are definitely dumped into our waterways, both during the production process and when we wash them, but whether or not they can seep into our skin from our clothing has yet to be determined. The Clean Ribbon Campaign is a charity we’re associated with that will soon be investigating this issue though! In the meantime, it certainly won’t hurt you to wear clothing that’s dyed with organic or plant based materials.
3. Treating Cracked or Sore Nipples
As any distance runner or new mother knows, nipples are sensitive little things. Even a tiny bit of friction can lead to cracks and sensitivity, and a hungry baby can lead to skin issues you never imagined possible. These are seriously delicate glands and when they’re damaged, whatever you put on them will enter your bloodstream, so it’s vital to use an all natural, deeply hydrating product to deal with any nipple issues – and yet it’s shocking to see that many women smear petroleum-based byproducts in this area! Just say NO to that and use a 100% natural product like one of these below (or even just butter or olive oil!)
4. Tone Up Post Baby Boobs
When you’ve stopped breastfeeding, or your breasts have stopped producing milk, the shape and size are meant to return to normal. However, plenty of women say that their breasts never return to the exact same shape or size.
Some women experience saggy breasts, which is linked to the skin stretching. If you haven’t helped the production of collagen or it is naturally lower, you will find that the skin’s elasticity is poor. When the skin stretches, it should bounce back like an elastic band, but if it’s been stretched too far, it won’t return to the old shape and will remain saggy. You can help to tone up and repair some of the skin with a breast firming cream – but again, as this is a delicate area with thin skin, full of lymph glands, a natural cream is best. Alternatively, French women swear by blasting their breasts with cold water at the end of a shower. It’s worth a try!
Finally, Positive Health warns that after having a baby, your breasts may also feel a bit lumpy. This is probably due to hormonal changes, and so you should check your breasts before, during and after your pregnancy to know what’s normal for you. Check the whole breast area, including up into the armpits. If you notice any abnormalities, it is worth mentioning them to your health provider. This will help to rule out any other serious problems that could affect your overall health.
5. Rethink Breast Implants
Our writer Candice Litchfield learned the hard way that not all breast implants are considered safe – her PIP implants leaked, and she suspects that’s why she ended up with breast cancer. Indeed, putting anything foreign in such a delicate area is totally risky, even soya (GMO) or silicone. In fact, silicone can cause all kinds of toxicity problems that can lead to all kinds of illnesses from Reynaud’s Syndrome to cancer, according to doctor Susan Kolb.
But I totally get that some women really want to reshape their breasts to boost their confidence. Thank goodness the 80s are over, and the rock hard, hugemongous porn star boob look is over. If you’re not happy with the shape of your breasts, why not consider a fat transfer using your own tissue, or a breast lift, instead?
6. Be Careful With Underarm Deodorants
Because doctors have noticed that many breast tumors start in the outer quadrant of the breast (where we often put deodorant), many researchers have made links between aluminium in deodorants and anti-perspirants and cancer. It has also been suggested that breasts are vulnerable to chemicals here because we shave the hairs away from very close to our breast tissue, and of course, there are plenty of lymph nodes there. Yet, despite all this research, several cancer charities and institutes say ‘there is no evidence’ to support those theories. Seeing that in print gave me a seriously WTF moment, as the cancer charity in question literally listed the publications showing the links between breast cancer and chemicals in underarm products right below their rubbishing of those studies…
The also dismissed the notion that parabens in personal grooming products used in this area may contribute to breast cancer, despite the fact that studies such as these have been done, and despite Europe banning parabens in skincare products for their carcinogenic effects. It seems it’s up to us to muddle through the information and disinformation out there, but for me personally, I’d rather be safe than sorry.
7. Invest In A Good Sports Bra
As any runner knows, physical activity makes breasts bounce up, down and all around. For this, reason, a good sports bra is essential. Breasts have no muscle, and without proper support, the skin and Cooper’s ligaments near the breast which give them their size and shape can break down and cause sagging. Once those ligaments stretch out, they don’t get back into shape.
No matter what size your breasts are, you should always wear a sports bra while running or exercising. There are different kinds, from compression bras, which press the breasts closer to the chest to restrict movement; encapsulation bras with cups to support each breast, and best of all, combination bras, which offer both compression and encapsulation. For maximum support, avoid spaghetti strap bras and go for racer backed or thick-strapped bras instead.
Overall, your sports bra should feel a bit tighter than your everyday one, but you should be able to breathe deeply and comfortably. Oh – and it’s a good idea to ensure that only natural dyes are used in your sports bra (remember point 2, above!).
8. Question Mammograms
Your doctor will tell you that once you turn 40, or in some cases, 50, you need to get these done annually. But you know what? I have zero plans to do that. Why? Because my very sensible, rather holistic, German doctor informed me that mammograms work using – wait for it – radiation. So, I’m supposed to protect my breasts from cancer by…radiating them? Um, why does this just not make sense?
Some doctors will assure you the radiation used for a mammogram is ‘as small as that used for a dental X-ray.” Ok…but for those X-rays (which, by the way, I also refuse), the dentist runs out of the room to do them, and puts a lead bib over you to protect your chest. So…
Sure, you DO need to check your breasts for lumps and bumps. And you can do that manually, but hey, we’re only human, so how can we get deep in there to see if there’s anything that needs looking at, without nuking our boobs? There is indeed a way, and it’s called thermography.
Thermographic breast screening is brilliantly simple. It measures the radiation of infrared heat from your body and translates this information into anatomical images. Your normal blood circulation is under the control of your autonomic nervous system, which governs your body functions. Thermography uses no mechanical pressure or ionizing radiation, and can detect signs of breast cancer years earlier than either mammography or a physical exam.
Mammography cannot detect a tumor until after it has been growing for years and reaches a certain size. Thermography is able to detect the possibility of breast cancer much earlier, because it can image the early stages of angiogenesis (the formation of a direct supply of blood to cancer cells, which is a necessary step before they can grow into tumors of size).
But the biggest news here is that mammograms don’t actually reduce breast cancer mortality. At all. And those tiny lumps mammograms find? They could be nothing significant, and yet millions of women undergo cancer treatment for them anyway.
According to the American Cancer Society, death rates from breast cancer have been falling since around 1989, and this is partly attributed to earlier detection as a result of breast cancer screening.
However, Harvard researcher Richard Wilson and his colleagues noted that there is increasing concern that mammography may lead to overdiagnosis by “identifying small, indolent or regressive tumors that would not otherwise become clinically apparent,” which means many women may receive treatment they do not necessarily need, as I mentioned above.
Although clinical trials have shown mammography is effective for early breast cancer diagnosis, Wilson and colleagues note that most of these trials are decades old. “There are concerns that the benefits and harms may have changed as treatments improved and screening was applied in general practice,” they said.
The team found that there has been a 10% rise in breast cancer screening, which was associated with a 16% increase in breast cancer diagnosis. However, no reduction was found in the rate of breast cancer deaths, and more importantly the 10% increase in breast cancer screening was linked to a 25% rise in incidence of very small breast cancers – defined as the presence of tumors 2 cm or less. These tiny tumours often self-resolve and don’t need treatment. However, the increase in breast cancer screening was not associated with a reduction in incidence of larger breast cancers – it was actually linked to a 7% increase!
So the bottom line? Check your breasts by all means for lumps and bumps – you can see how to do it below. But when it comes to mammograms? We’ll be passing on that, and asking for thermography instead.
Image: Wikicommons. Main and non-branded images: Pixabay