Total Drek

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Friday, April 03, 2009

This is why I should have been a masseuse...

So, owing to my consistent interest in all things to do with boobs, I thought I should mention an exciting new health technology: the brassage. What is the brassage? Well, it's a bra. More than that, however, it is a bra that allegedly can increase your health. That is, if you wear bras in the first place. If you're not wearing a bra on a regular basis, this thing probably isn't for you.

In any case, the brassage integrates "technology" developed and marketed by "Lymphatic Enhancement Technology, Ltd." whose website is nothing short of awesome. And that is particularly true of the picture that greets you when you first arrive:


Seriously, check out their website- the arrows are animated:

Now, you may be wondering if this bra improves health by reducing wind resistance, but this isn't the case. No, supposedly, this bra enhances health by preventing nasty toxins from building up in your breasts. See, ladies? Going braless isn't just a fashion or feminist statement anymore: it's about health. And where did this amazing revolution come from. Why, from one Jayson Sher:

After seven years of researching scientific data compiled by medical doctors, scientists, holistic practitioners, massage therapists and academics, Dr. Jayson I. Sher, D.C. along with a team of medical advisors, engineers, designers, and consultants, successfully developed LETflow, a revolutionary new technology that works in conjunction with natural body movement to provide undetectable gentle micro-massage of the tissues above, around and near these extremely delicate lymphatic vessels. This massage aids the body in promoting and enhancing the lymphatic system's natural ability to remove and transport toxins, cellular debris, and other harmful chemicals from the breast tissue, promoting a healthier physiological environment. The bra containing the virtually invisible LETflow technology undetectably enhances lymphatic circulation, increases comfort to the wearer while maintaining the fashion and style of the brassiere.

Did you get all that? The bra supposedly massages your breast* so as to release nasty toxins. So, am I really praising the brassage? Well, not really. For one thing, the "D.C." that follows "Dr. Jayson Sher, D.C." stands for "Doctor of Chiropractic." And y'all already know the score with chiropractic.** More importantly, however, is the simple issue that for all of the bounteous claims about it, it doesn't seem to work:

"The Federal Trade Commission has not concluded any investigations against the marketers of the Brassage," says press officer Betsy Lordan. As a matter of policy, however, FTC doesn't comment on ongoing investigations, she says.

Meanwhile, what about the claims that the bra's massaging bumps sewn into the side "stimulate lymphatic flow," which promotes healthy breast tissue, according to the company's website.

Erteszek is also quoted in other media outlets as saying the "wellness bra" helps to prevent breast disease.

Not so fast, says an expert from the American Cancer Society. "There is no credible evidence to suggest that local accumulation of toxins has a role in breast cancer risk," Ted Gansler, MD, director of medical content for the American Cancer Society, tells WebMD.

"And there is no scientific evidence that this type of bra or any other has any impact of women's risk of developing breast cancer."

What about the bra's claim of stimulating lymphatic flow? "Unless you have had surgery or a treatment that damages lymphatic vessels, your lymphatic flow will be just fine, regardless of what bra you wear or even if you wear no bra," Gansler says.

On its website, the American Cancer Society also addresses the topic of bras and breast cancer, posting information in response to a previous email rumor that claims wearing a bra for the entire day compresses the breast's lymphatic system, resulting in toxin accumulation that cause breast cancer.

In respond, the ACS says: "There are no scientifically valid studies that show wearing bras of any type causes breast cancer."

So, you would presumably be just as well off getting the same massaging effect from a couple of pre-pubescent boys, with the potential caveat that I'm sure the boys would be more than happy to massage breasts for free.

Am I about to launch into some deep discussion of health and beauty products here? Maybe a digression into a chat about gender?

Nah. I just wanted to talk about boobs, and figured consumer advice was as good a reason as any.

You're welcome!

* So, basically, this is the "Tune in Tokyo" theory of medicine.

** i.e. it doesn't really work.

As a side note: If this post seems unusually incoherent, it's because I'm busy submitting a paper today. Seriously, why the fuck must we send along three paper copies at this point?

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Blogger Jay Livingston said...

A bra that massages. Hmm. Ancients like me may recall something called the Playtex Living Bra. That too sounded kinda weird. (One comedian said that his girlfriend was going to get one but she didn’t know what to feed it.) And I like that accent grave for purposes of stylishness in Bràssage.

Friday, April 03, 2009 9:35:00 AM  
Blogger Sarahliz said...

Actually years ago there was a study done on women in the Phillipines that linked bras and breast cancer. Maybe it's since been debunked but I seem to remember that at least on the surface it seemed to raise some interesting questions. Of course given that bra-wearing is pretty constant in a given culture, it would be really hard to figure out how to identifying what effects were due to bras and what came from differences across space and time.

Friday, April 03, 2009 4:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Brassage is clearly trying to capitalize on the link between bras and breast cancer, which is real. Medical anthropologists Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer did a study, discussed in their book Dressed To Kill, that shows constriction from bras may be the leading cause of breast cancer and fibrocystic breast disease. In fact, bra-free women have about the same incidence of breast cancer as men. It has to do with constriction of the lymphatics caused by tight bras, resulting in fluid and toxin accumulation within the breast tissue. But the medical industry is ignoring this, suppressing the information, and refusing to do any research into the bra/cancer link, despite research from Harvard in 1991 showing bra-free women have much lower incidence of b.c. than bra wearing women. Must be an embarassment to the medical industry that they have ignored the most obvious cause of breast disease, like studying foot disease while ignoring tight shoes. For more info, I suggest Singer's article, Bras and the Breast Cancer Cover-Up, which is here:

Saturday, April 04, 2009 7:47:00 AM  
Blogger Drek said...

Anonymous: You may want to check out what the American Cancer Society has to say on the subject:

"There are no scientifically valid studies that show wearing bras of any type causes breast cancer. The email appears to be based on the writings of a husband and wife team of medical anthropologists who link breast cancer to wearing a bra. The two anthropologists suggested this association in a book called Dressed to Kill. Their study was not conducted according to standard principles of epidemiological research and did not take into consideration other variables, including known risk factors for breast cancer.

We know of only one scientifically-conducted epidemiologic study that investigated a possible link between bra use and breast cancer. This study suggested that breast cancer might be less common among women who do not wear bras than among bra wearers. However, breast cancer risk in the two groups was not significantly different, according to standard statistical criteria, and the researchers themselves expressed uncertainty regarding this correlation. They also noted that if there is any connection, it would most likely have occurred indirectly, because women who are obese or have larger breasts are less likely to go braless. Obesity has been identified by numerous studies as a breast cancer risk factor, and having large breasts has been suggested in some studies as increasing breast cancer risk for young women who are not overweight.

We do not know of any epidemiologic studies published in scientific journals that suggest bras directly contribute to breast cancer risk or that lymphatic compression by bras might cause breast cancer.

Regardless of the size of a woman's breast and whether she is slim or heavy, there is no convincing epidemiologic evidence that her choices regarding bra use will influence her breast cancer risk. Furthermore, the alleged mechanism suggested in the book and in chain e-mails (blocked lymphatic vessels causing toxins to accumulate) is inconsistent with scientific concepts of breast physiology and pathology. [emphasis added]"

If you want to assume a conspiracy, I can't stop you. That said, given how many people are affected by breast cancer- not to mention the medical researchers themselves- do you seriously think that their alleged embarrassment would be sufficient to prevent them from reporting on such an easy preventative measure? Perhaps I'm naive, but I find that impossible to believe.

Saturday, April 04, 2009 8:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just because the American Cancer Society says something does not mean it is true, or in the best interests of the public. If they really cared to deal with the bra/cancer issue responsibly, they would do follow-up research, instead of trying to ignore and downplay the issue. The Harvard study the ACS mentions supports this link, even if they try to minimize and rationalize away the data showing reduced incidence of b.c. for bra-free women. Then there is Singer and Grismaijer's study, which makes lots of sense. Why not do another study? So far, 2 studies say this is real. And keep in mind that breast cancer is a multi-billion dollar business, including detection, treatment, etc. And the lingerie industry makes billions on bra sales. They also fear class action lawsuits for making these hazardous, constrictive contraptions that are causing health problems. That's a lot of money invested in bras, and invested in suppressing the bra/cancer link.

Sunday, April 05, 2009 8:46:00 AM  
Blogger Drek said...

Anonymous: You're right, just because the American Cancer Society says something doesn't make it true. Let's consider their company, however. The U.S. National Cancer Institute has commented:

"There are a number of misconceptions about what can cause breast cancer. These include, but are not limited to, using deodorants or antiperspirants, wearing an underwire bra, having a miscarriage or induced abortion, or bumping or bruising breast tissue. However, none of these factors has been shown to increase a woman's risk of breast cancer."

The U.S. National Institutes of Health similarly remark:

"Breast implants, using antiperspirants, and wearing underwire bras do not raise your risk for breast cancer."

There's also an excellent commentary from the Cancer Society of South Africa, which concludes as follows:

"The proposal that the wearing of a bra increases the risk for breast cancer cannot be taken seriously for the following reasons:

-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."

So, yes, just because the ACS says something doesn't make it true, BUT they have a lot of support from other experts in the field. Then there is the Harvard study you keep referring to, which is Hsieh and Trichopolous 1991 from the European Journal of Cancer. I looked it up and read through it- pretty easy since it's all of five pages long. In discussing the bra/no-bra issue they remark:

"Table 4 shows adjusted odds ratios for breast cancer, contrasting bra users with non-users. There was a suggestion (odds ratio 0.44,O. 17-1.15; P about 0.09) that, among premenopausal
women, those who did not wear a bra had a lower risk of breast cancer. The association, if real, could point to obesity or breast size as the relevant risk factor. It can be seen in Table 5 that in all four study centres bra-wearing controls were substantially heavier than those who did not wear a bra and cup size was strongly correlated with body weight and obesity."

In case you're unfamiliar, when they say "p about 0.09" what they're saying is that they cannot be sure, at the levels accepted in scientific research, that bra use is at all related to breast cancer. Later dialog from the authors makes clear that they view the evidence, in context with other studies, to point to obesity and/or breast size as the relevant issue. And those conclusions are supported by a statistically significant finding in their study that cup size is associated with cancer risk for some women. Thus, in sum, the weight of medical opinion and research does not support the bras -> breast cancer connection you tout so strongly.

Let's leave that aside for a moment, however, and consider the remainder of your argument. You seem to be suggesting that the nebulous community of "breast cancer researchers" have formed a sort of unholy alliance with lingerie manufacturers to ignore the true source of breast cancer in order to protect their budgets. But here's the thing: lingerie makers wouldn't go out of business even if bras did cause breast cancer. They would just race to design safe, non-carcinogenic bras and market those instead. The cancer/breast implant scare certainly didn't stop breast implant sales and I'm betting that even if bras were found to cause cancer, we'd still see women strapping on WonderBras for first dates. Further, given the many different kinds of cancer, even if we could turn off breast cancer like a light switch, the oncologists currently specializing in breast cancer would hardly end up in the unemployment line. There are plenty of other cancers waiting to be cured and plenty of work for former breast cancer researchers. And this ignores the most basic problem with any conspiracy theory about breast cancer and bras: it assumes that all those cancer researchers and lingerie makers are so cold hearted as to be willing to kill many, many women by not speaking up about such an association. Such ruthlessness, from so many, achieving such perfect secrecy, entirely boggles the mind. It is vastly more parsimonious to conclude that the paltry few researchers aggressively pushing the bras -> breast cancer claim are the ones in the grips of a financial motive, as they sell $60 bras to alleviate a problem that does not exist.

So, while I am somewhat receptive to the notion that there may be an as-yet undetected link between bras and breast cancer, I find it completely implausible that a vast conspiracy such as you imply actually exists. The research points away from a link between bras and breast cancer, the experts argue against it, and you have presented no compelling reason to believe otherwise. Particularly, you try to dismiss the weight of expert evidence with a poorly thought-out conspiracy theory.

You're going to have to do better than that.

Monday, April 06, 2009 7:08:00 AM  
Blogger Drek said...

And as long as we're on the subject have you ever actually looked up the qualifications of Singer and Grismaijer? They're not terribly impressive, even when they tell it:

"Sydney Ross Singer received a B.S. in biology from the University of Utah in 1979. He then spent two years in the biochemistry Ph.D. program at Duke University, followed by another two years at Duke in the anthropology Ph.D. program, receiving a Master’s Degree. He then attended the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston, Texas on a full academic scholarship, where he spent one year in the medical humanities Ph.D. program, and received an additional two years training in medical school.

Soma Grismaijer received an associate’s degree from the College of Marin in the behavioral sciences, and a bachelor of arts from Sonoma State University in environmental studies and planning. In addition, she is an American Board of Opticianry-certified optician. She has been the President and Executive Director of the Good Shepherd Foundation since 1980, a charitable organization dedicated to the elimination of human and animal suffering."

So, between them, they have a B.S. in biology, an M.A. in Anthroplogy, an A.S. in "behavioral sciences," a B.A. in environmental studies and planning, and a certification in optometry. No Ph.D.s, no M.D.s, no advanced biology training, no statistical expertise... nothing.

But, then again, they do think that sleeping on an angled bed can prevent glaucoma. Riiiiiight.

Monday, April 06, 2009 8:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Head of bed elevation can lower eye pressure and treat glaucoma. Here is one of many articles supporting this.

Swiss Med Wkly. 2004 Sep 18;134(37-38):543-51.
The role of body position and gravity in the symptoms and treatment of various medical diseases.

Martin-Du Pan RC, Benoit R, Girardier L.
Postural medicine studies the effects of gravity on human body functions and the ability to influence various diseases by changing the body's position. Orthostasis requires numerous cardiovascular and neurohumoral adaptations to prevent hypotension and a resulting decrease in cerebral perfusion. Sitting upright or in a semi-sitting position reduces venous return in patients with heart failure, intracranial pressure in patients with intracranial hypertension, intraocular pressure in glaucoma patients and may decrease gastro-oesophageal reflux.

FYI, sleeping with the head of the bed elevated is called Fowlers position. Singer and Grismaijer are correct on this issue of sleep position and glaucoma, as well as other problems caused by sleeping too flat, which does not allow gravity to assist in cerebral circulation.

It seems the problem with head position and wearing constrictive clothing, such as bras, is the impact on circulation. If you don't circulate, you deteriorate.

Instead of attacking Singer and Grismaijer we should encourage further research into their issues. If the bra/cancer issue is as big as they say, not researching this any further is a crime. Their book came out in 1995, and still no research from the nay-saying medical community. Where's the science behind their criticism? Sounds like medical industry damage control.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009 8:19:00 AM  
Blogger Drek said...

Anonymous: I'm tired of this. Seriously. You may- and I emphasize may have a point on the glaucoma issue. Part of the issue, of course, is that the citation you mention refers to "treatment" whereas Singer and Grismaijer are largely talking about causation and prevention. These are not the same. I am more than a bit skeptical on the subject but I simply do not have the time or energy to track down the relevant literature on yet another area. Nonetheless, allow me to emphasize something: I have responded at length to your comments, citing multiple sources, tracking down the citation you haphazardly included, and discussing your conspiracy theory. Your response, at this time, is to seize upon a tangential point (i.e. the glaucoma issue) and attempt to use it to justify the bras -> breast cancer claim. This sort of argumentative sleight-of-hand is supremely unconvincing. Likewise, you persist in adhering to your unsupported conspiracy theory. And, frankly, your remark "Where's the science behind their criticism" is so absurd as to boggle the mind. The statement from CANSA alone should point you in the right direction. I am almost always happy to engage with people who disagree with me, but this is not engaging and I have better things to do with my time.

Or, to be more blunt: I have responded directly to your comments. You have declined to show me the same courtesy. Fuck off.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009 9:08:00 AM  

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