Gwyneth Paltrow’s “Super-Doc” Spouts Discredited Breast Cancer Myth on GOOP

Well, Gwyneth’s at it again- using her website, GOOP, to air controversial, if not just plain disproven, medical information.

This time it comes from someone she refers to as a “super doctor,” Dr. Habib Sadeghi, the same doctor who introduced us to the concept of “conscious uncoupling.”

As part of it’s October Breast Cancer Awareness Month newsletter,  Paltrow included a column by Dr. Sadeghi entitled, “Could There Possibly Be a Link Between Underwire Bras and Breast Cancer??”

In his article, he cites the 1995 book by Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer, called “Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras.” Based on an epidemiological study of 5000 women, the authors concluded that pre-menopausal women who did not wear bras had half the risk of breast cancer than those who did, and in women who did wear bras, the longer they wore them, the higher the risk of breast cancer.

The medical community was quick to discredit this information (which  BTW was never published in a peer-reviewed  journal). The American Cancer Society says that “there are no scientifically valid studies that show wearing bras of any type causes breast cancer.” There  are many much more important factors involved in causing breast cancer. According to gynecologist, Dr. Jen Gunter:

“Breast cancer is a complex condition that involves genetics and a variety of risk factors, the most common ones being obesity, dense breasts, alcohol consumption, if and when (age) a woman gives birth, taking estrogen, and a history of radiation exposure.”

In 2014, a study by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC) in Seattle, WA, once again showed no relationship between bra use and breast cancer risk. Although Dr. Sadeghi mentions this study in his article, he tries to discount the information by pointing out that the FHCRC has a yearly fundraiser called the Bra Dash, a 5k run during which women wear pink bras on the outside of their clothes to raise money for research . “Perhaps the researchers felt it was inappropriate to implicate bras in breast cancer when they’re used to raise money for the institution,” says Sadeghi.

Sadeghi goes on to argue that wearing a tight bra could restrict the lymph nodes around the breast, thereby preventing “toxins from being processed through them and flushed out of the body.” Gunter discredits this idea as well:

“Lymphatic obstruction is not a risk factor for cancer. If it were all the lymph node dissections done to save people from various cancers would paradoxically be killing them. We actually have mountains of data on outcomes after lymph node dissection, so if impeding lymph flow caused cancer we’d know.”

Next, Sadeghi suggests that bras may raise the temperature of breast tissue, which could “alter hormone function and raise the risk of breast cancer.” Really? Has he looked at the flimsy material most bras are made of? We’re not talking wool here.  He likens the situation to that of tight fitting pants causing low sperm counts. He says that tight pants causes low testosterone which causes fertility problems. Sorry, but breast and testicular tissue are just not equivalent when it comes to hormone production. And besides, it’s not that heat causes low testosterone which damages sperm cells, it’s that heat has a direct effect on the production of sperm.

Lastly, he points to the possible danger of the metal underwire.  He wonders if the metal could “magnify the radiation associated with cell phones and wireless Internet. While the fact that your bra could absorb and intensify radiation seems preposterous, it’s not as far-fetched as it sounds.” Once again, no scientific evidence to support this.

I admit it. I actually laughed out loud a few times while reading the article. For instance, when he says: ” Breasts are external organs meant to hang out and somewhat away from the torso.” (“Not after age 40”, I thought.)But I have medical training, and I’m not afraid to look up what the available research says on a particular topic.

I am afraid that stories like these will scare some women who may take their focus away from much more important risk factors for breast cancer.

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.


  1. Sydney Ross Singer

    November 4, 2015 at 9:39 am

    Michele, I am the medical anthropologist breast cancer researcher whose work you try to disparage in this article. I am the co-author of Dressed to Kill. I want you to know you are part of the cause of breast cancer, you and all the other doctors who are paid shills for the cancer industry. (Or is it the lingerie industry that paid you to write this propaganda?)

    You obviously read Dr. Sadeghi’s article, yet you left out important information, like the fact that the Hutchinson study did not include any bra-free women. You can’t perform a study on the impacts of bra wearing on breast cancer without comparing it to bra-free women. It’s like studying the impact of smoking on lung cancer and not including any smokers. The author of that poorly designed study admitted this flaw in their study discussion, but you didn’t.

    You also didn’t mention, which was also included in the article you are maligning, that there are numerous studies, apart from my studies, which support the bra-cancer link, including a peer reviewed epidemiological study done in 2015 in Kenya. Why did you ignore this study?

    Clearly, you are dishonest. Whatever your motive for writing this terrible article, I want you to know you are part of the cause of breast cancer. Shame on you.

    • Dr. Michele Berman

      November 5, 2015 at 8:41 am

      Dear Dr. Singer:
      Thank you for taking the time to comment on our article. For the record, our blog receives no financial support from either the pharmaceutical or lingerie industries and we try to be as objective as we can in our reporting. Regarding the data in your book, Dressed to Kill, has any of it been published in the peer-reviewed biomedical literature? We searched for this while preparing our article and couldn’t find any such publications. But if they exist, please point them out to us and we will review the data and amend our article as appropriate. For example, could you provide us with the citation of the 2015 Kenya study?
      Your data, being observational and epidemiological in nature, appears to show a correlation between bras and breast cancer. But correlation is not causation and our main critique was aimed at the speculative causal inferences made by Dr. Sadeghi. We regret that you interpreted this as an ad hominem criticism of you.
      Cancer is caused by “driver” mutations in proto-oncogenes or tumor suppressor genes and the burden of proof on the bra/breast cancer connection is to show that bra-wearing leads to changes in DNA of the type that have been shown to be causally related to breast cancer (e.g. HER2 gene amplification).
      Again, thank you for taking the time to read and comment on our article.
      Respectfully yours,

      • Sydney Ross Singer

        November 5, 2015 at 9:27 am

        Michelle, correlation is not causation, but when there is a mechanism for explaining the correlation, it can be causation. In this case, the concentration of carcinogens within the breast tissue resulting from impaired lymphatic clearance due to constriction of the lymphatics by tight bras is a mechanism. Carcinogens cause the cancer. The bra prevents these from being effectively removed from the breast tissue. That is a causal mechanism, and explains the DNA mutations you ask about. Carcinogens are both exogenous and endogenous, the former a function of our contaminants in our food, air and water, the latter a function of hypoxic tissue secondary to lymphatic constriction.

        I am explaining the above in the hope that you are genuinely interested in understanding this link. But from the bias in your article, I really doubt your mind is open.

        You also ignore a 1991 Harvard study which found that bra wearers have over 100% higher incidence of breast cancer than bra-free women. This study was in Pub Med, and should have come up in your research, if you really did any. The authors of that study could not explain that finding, and wondered if it could be due to breast size, however size is not a significant factor so it was a poor explanation. The data, however, remains. “Premenopausal women who do not wear bras had half the risk of breast cancer compared with bra users (P about 0.09), possibly because they are thinner and likely to have smaller breasts.”

        Anyway, the Kenyan study is here: It’s in the African Journal of Cancer. Maybe you need to expand your research beyond just PubMed. It is peer reviewed and well done.


        1991 Harvard study (CC Hsieh, D Trichopoulos (1991). Breast size, handedness and breast cancer risk. European Journal of Cancer and Clinical Oncology 27(2):131-135.). This study found that, “Premenopausal women who do not wear bras had half the risk of breast cancer compared with bra users…”

        1991-93 U.S. Bra and Breast Cancer Study by Singer and Grismaijer, published in Dressed To Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras (Avery/Penguin Putnam, 1995; ISCD Press, 2005). Found that bra-free women have about the same incidence of breast cancer as men. 24/7 bra wearing increases incidence over 100 times that of a bra-free woman.

        Singer and Grismaijer did a follow-up study in Fiji, published in Get It Off! (ISCD Press, 2000). Found 24 case histories of breast cancer in a culture where half the women are bra-free. The women getting breast cancer were all wearing bras. Given women with the same genetics and diet and living in the same village, the ones getting breast disease were the ones wearing bras for work.

        A 2009 Chinese study (Zhang AQ, Xia JH, Wang Q, Li WP, Xu J, Chen ZY, Yang JM (2009). [Risk factors of breast cancer in women in Guangdong and the countermeasures]. In Chinese. Nan Fang Yi Ke Da Xue Xue Bao. 2009 Jul;29(7):1451-3.) found that NOT sleeping in a bra was protective against breast cancer, lowering the risk 60%.

        2011 a study was published, in Spanish, confirming that bras are causing breast disease and cancer. It found that underwired and push-up bras are the most harmful, but any bra that leaves red marks or indentations may cause disease.

        2014 Scottish study attributed an increase incidence of breast cancer in the upper outer quadrant to the wearing of bras.

        A 2015 epidemiological study from Kenya found a strong link between breast cancer and wearing bras.

        Clearly, there is substance to this issue, which deserves much more than a swipe at Ms Paltrow for her audacity for bringing this issue to public attention.

        Ironically, it takes people outside of the medical field (and even I am a medical anthropologist, not an oncologist) to bring to light this major cause of breast disease and cancer. (I haven’t gone into the link between bras and breast cysts and pain, which almost any women who stops wearing bras will discover for herself.) Doctors like yourself, as evident by your article, don’t think for themselves and have difficulty thinking outside of medical dogma. Of course, that assumes you weren’t paid, directly or indirectly, for publishing your biased, misinformed, and malicious article.

        If your article was a product of your lack of information which you wish to correct, or a deliberate hit piece trying to further suppress interest in the bra-cancer link, remains to be seen by how you respond to this “new” information.

        • Dr. Michele Berman

          November 5, 2015 at 1:26 pm

          Dear Dr. Singer:
          Thank you for the links. Some of them (specifically the ones to lead to “Page Not Found.” Others are published on news sites that lack citations or links to published studies in medical journals. We were able to access the abstract (but not the full text) of the 1991 study by Hsieh and Trichopoulos and it’s difficult to evaluate based on the abstract alone. We do note that the p-value of statistical significance supporting the connection is not very strong (p~0.09) — the usual cut-off for significance is p<0.05.
          Your own work has not been published in peer-reviewed journals and thus represents a weaker standard of evidence than work that has been reviewed by your professional peers.
          The "lymphatic obstruction" hypothesis of causation is plausible, but how do you reconcile this with Dr. Jen Gunter's view that decades of experience with lumpectomy and (diagnostic/staging) lymph node dissection would appear to refute this hypothesis?
          Thanks again for your stimulating comments.

          • Sydney Ross Singer

            November 6, 2015 at 1:36 am

            Michele, actually women who had had axillary lymph node dissection did experience increased incidence of skin cancer, as shown by an ACS “study” that was designed to refute the bra-cancer link. (It’s interesting how the 2 “studies” which were done by the cancer establishment on this issue were done to refute the link, making them biased, of course. The other study was the Hutchinson study, with its flaw of no bra-free women and only post-menopausal women, as discussed above.) Anyway, I do not think looking at women who have had their armpit lymph nodes dissected or removed is a good model for a woman wearing a bra for decades, but you can read about it and get a reference to it here: .
            Of course, as they promised, they did not find increased breast cancer incidence in that ACS “study” (which was actually a letter to the editor in the ACS Breast Journal.) They admit, however, that they did not have enough women with breast cancer in their data to make a significant conclusion. But they could have made a significant conclusion that armpit lymph node dissection did increase skin cancer incidence, but they glossed over that finding since it actually supports the hypothesis that lymphatic impairment can increase cancer incidence.

            Michelle, let’s be honest. The real reason why you are resisting this information is because you wear a bra, and you find this information frightening. It’s called denial. Note that whatever I say to you, you resist. Is this really the right attitude to take when it comes to an epidemic disease for which you do not know the cause in over 70% of the cases? You should be happy that there is a new direction to take where women may be able to actually prevent this disease by a simple lifestyle change by ending the constriction of their breasts with bras. It should be obvious that wearing a constrictive device around breasts for long hours every day, year after year, from puberty onwards, is a health hazard. Of course, women in the past had put up with the damage caused by corsets, as well as by foot binding. Fashions can be very unhealthy. Bras are a breast binding, and the bra is a breast corset. If you can’t see the logic in this, then I’m afraid there is nothing more I can tell you to help you see the light.

  2. T. Mak

    January 12, 2016 at 9:35 pm

    As a fellow medical professional and scientist, I am confused here–not by the highly technical content, rather quite the opposite. Why on earth is the so-called Dr. Singer speaking so unprofessionally? Is this a prank? Referring to Dr. Berman as, “Michelle” repeatedly is very rude and disrespectful. Using condescending, misogynistic phrases like, “let’s be honest” and accusing her of being “in denial” and “malicious” and “I really doubt your mind is open,” rather than asking valid, well phrased scientific questions which is what she’s doing–is childish. What grade is Dr. Singer in? The talented and intelligent Ms. Paltrow herself would be embarrassed to have endorsed this childish baby-man if she read this exchange–assuming it’s real.

    While I felt the original “bra-cancer” link was not scientifically supported and unfortunately amusing, I question the legitimacy of this exchange. Dr. Berman is obviously dead serious, polite, and well-informed–someone posing as Dr. Singer is going out of their way to make him sound like a rude ass–and they’re succeeding brilliantly. I can only assume we must give the “real” Dr. Singer a pass, as no adult scientist would write this dialogue. Whoever did write “his” comments, I “really doubt his mind was PRESENT” at all.

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