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Ask Dr. Mike: Hops for Hot Flashes? PLUS Does Wearing a Bra & Using Antiperspirant Cause Breast Cancer?

Here you'll find the answers to a wealth of health and wellness questions posed by Healthy Talk fans.Listen in because what you come to know helps ensure healthy choices you can actually live with. Today on Healthy Talk, you wanted to know:

I have two questions about breast cancer. First, does wearing a bra cause breast cancer? Second, do antiperspirants that contain aluminum cause breast cancer?

A long time ago it was said that wearing a bra constricted the lymphatic flow in your breast tissue and increased your chances of developing cancer. So far, research shows the risk of breast cancer is the same, regardless of a woman's choice to wear a bra. A recent study published in October 2014 found no correlation between wearing a bra or not wearing a bra and breast cancer risk. If you're still concerned, you may want to consider getting fitted for a bra without underwire.

Now, the second question, do antiperspirants that contain aluminum cause breast cancer... that is a little more complex. Aluminum is a metal and metal is known to cause oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is one of the major theories of aging and development of age-related diseases, including cancer.

Adding and putting metals on and in your body on a daily basis isn't the greatest thing. You do need certain metals to live, but the concern lies with how much, and if you are overdoing it.

When it comes to aluminum and breast cancer, there's no real evidence backing up these claims. If you are worried, you can switch your antiperspirant to one without any aluminum.

My hot flashes aren't really that bad, but nevertheless, I'd really like to not have them. I've read some promising information on hops. What do you think?

Dung quai, black cohosh, and estrogen replacement therapy are common relief for menopausal symptoms. However, hops along with another type of nutrient called lignins is shown to reduce hot flash symptoms better than the traditional way.

If you have a health question or concern, Dr. Mike encourages you to write him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. so he can provide you with support and helpful advice.

RadioMD Presents:Healthy Talk | Original Air Date: February 10, 2015
Host: Michael Smith, MD

You’re listening to RadioMD. It’s time to “Ask Dr. Mike” on Healthy Talk. Call or email to ask your questions now. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call: 877-711-5211. The lines are open.

Alright. Moving on with the questions here. This next one, I also had to have some help from the health advisory staff here at Life Extension because I’ve heard of this and I think I followed this question—this risk factor for breast cancer--for a little bit, but I really didn’t know where we were with any recent research. So, the question is, “I have two questions about breast cancer. First, does wearing a bra cause breast cancer? And second, do anti-perspirants that contain aluminum cause breast cancer?”

So, let’s take each one of these one at a time. So, the first one is about wearing a bra. Can it cause breast cancer? So, the theory originally—and I think this started maybe 20 years or so ago—there were some proponents that it was a risk; that wearing a bra was a risk factor. They were concerned, simplifying it, that it constricted the lymphatic flow in the breast tissue. So, you have different types of fluids that flow around your body, right? You, obviously, have the vessels. You have arteries and veins for blood, but there’s also another type of vessel called a “lymphatic” vessel. What the lymph systems does is it drains lymph nodes, right? So, a lymph node is a place where toxins and bacteria and viruses and even like cancer cells will collect. You have lymph nodes all over your body. They tend to concentrate in certain areas like in the breast, in the axillary region, which is basically the armpit, neck, groin, so you have these areas of tissue where bacteria, viruses, and toxins are brought because you have this concentration of immune cells in this lymph tissue—these lymph nodes. But see, here’s the thing. Once you bring viruses and toxins and bacteria to these areas and there is an immune response that happens there, you have to be able to drain it because if not, then the lymph tissue would just swell, swell, swell and it would basically burst and then dump all that gunk all over the place. That wouldn’t be good. So, you actually have a way to drain lymph nodes. It’s called “lymphatic” vessels or the “lymphatic system”. So, the thought was that if you are wearing something that constricts the lymphatic system, that that might not be great and could increase the risk for breast cancer. I guess, for guys, I guess I could extrapolate that to wearing tight underwear or jock straps. I mean, if you’re constricting the lymph tissues in the groin, could that increase my risk of testicular cancer? I mean, it’s all kind of the same thing, right? So, you’re not allowing the body to get rid of the gunk that’s building up in the lymph nodes. That’s basically what the theory was. And, that’s about as far as I knew. I wasn’t up to date on if there was anybody looking at this study. So far, research shows—and this comes from the help I had here at Life Extension—so far research shows the risk for breast cancer is the same regardless of a woman’s choice to wear a bra. A recent study published in October 2014, and I’m sorry I don’t have that journal cite, but a recent study published in October 2014, found no correlation between wearing a bra or not wearing a bra in breast cancer risk. If you are still concerned, try wearing a well-fitted bra without underwire and that should alleviate any pressure on the lymph system. As far as I know, there have never been any studies in, let’s say, jock straps in guys in the groin area and testicular cancer so, at this point, it does not seem that constricting lymph flow with outer garments increases the risk of cancer which makes sense.

I mean, you know, when you think of the anatomy, you can feel lymph nodes, especially when they get swollen. I mean, if you get a cold, just feel around your neck. You’ll feel some nodes. You know, in kids, they always have nodes anyway around their necks and stuff and you can sometimes feel them under your armpits and stuff. But, the actual drainage system—the lymphatic vessels are pretty deep. I’m picturing when I was in anatomy class that we had a couple of cadavers that we stripped completely bare except for the bones. We had another one that was stripped completely bare except for the arteries and one that was only showing the veins. I remember we had one that was only the lymphatic system and I remember looking at that and when you look at those cadavers, if you could almost put them together in your mind, you could see that the lymph system was pretty deep. So, it would take some pretty tight clothing or bras or jock straps to really cause a compression of the lymph tissue. So, that makes sense to me.

Now, let’s go on to the next question which was about the aluminum. Now, listen, aluminum’s a metal. Metals cause oxidative stress and oxidative stress is one of the leading theories of aging and the development of all kinds of chronic, age-related diseases. So, right there you know that putting metals on your body, in your body, is not always the greatest thing, definitely on a daily basis. I mean, you do need some of these metals to live, but the question is, how much. I mean, can you overdo it and I think that’s where the concern is with anti-perspirants. There’s a lot of aluminum. The skin under the arms is quite thin. It does absorb there pretty readily. That’s why it works. That’s why it stops sweating and so you probably are getting a decent load of aluminum from an anti-perspirant. But, the question is, is that dangerous? I mean, is it enough to cause problems, like say, with dementias which we already have connected to aluminum.

But, in this case, when it comes to breast cancer, here’s what we’ve found. As far as anti-perspirants go, this concerned an issue that came about when aluminum was found in breast tumors. Aluminum is a common ingredient in anti-perspirants and prevents sweat from reaching the body’s surface. Proponents argue that sweat eliminates toxins which could otherwise be carcinogenic. While we see the logic in this, foregoing anti-perspirants isn’t really necessary. Most of the toxins eliminated by the human body are excreted via the digestive system and urinary systems. If you still remain concerned, opt to wear deodorants with natural ingredients. Deodorants do not prevent the release of sweat. It’s the anti-perspirant part. So, again, when it comes to bras and anti-perspirants, there’s no real evidence in the literature that we have to worry about that.

I saw a caller come on, but it looks like they were taken off the board which is probably good because I don’t think I have too much time left.

Let me go to a quick question here. “My hot flashes aren’t really that bad but, nevertheless, I’d like not to have them. I’ve read some promising information on hops. What do you think? Are hops really that good at stopping hot flashes?”

Yes. You know, it’s not traditional. Dong quai, black cohosh, estrogen replacement therapy-- those are the traditional things that women will do to prevent menopausal symptoms. I think this should actually be a good segment. I should do one on menopause and some of the latest stuff because hops, along with another type of nutrient called “lignans” from the bark of trees like Norway spruce, for instance, have been shown to reduce hot flash symptoms in some cases better than the traditional stuff, other than estrogen. Estrogen’s the best way to go. I mean, if you’re having menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and your estrogen’s low, progesterone’s out, replacing those hormones with bio-identical formulations is the best way to handle that. But, if you don’t want to do that, which is fine—that’s your choice--hops and lignans—I don’t remember the data specifically, but we’re talking about reducing the number of hot flashes significantly by a third, maybe up to a half, which really is better than some of the traditional stuff that women use like black cohosh which really is pretty inconsistent in the literature. So, hops. Yes. I think hops would be a good one to try and, if not, maybe even add some lignans to it. Norway spruce lignans.

This is Healthy Talk on RadioMD. I’m Dr. Mike. Stay well.