I posted this web page in October 2003 to share with web surfers the following concerns, that subsequently became
points of discussion in the media as well.
(1) About breast implant and mammograms
In March 2004, I wrote to the Straits Times Forum Editor and the Minister of Health to express my concern on
this subject matter.
Contradictory views - The Choice is YOURS!
My letter -
"Boob job may mask killer" was published on 7 March 2004 in The Sunday Times
HPB's reply -
"Boob jobs don't mar screening" was published on 14 March 2004 in The Sunday Times.
30 May 2004 -
"Breast Assured" extracted from The Sunday Times
4 June 2004 -
"Breast Implants Affect Tests" extracted from The Straits Times
(2) About breast cancer and bras
On 28 March 2004, an article - "Looks like it's bra-burning time" was published in The Sunday Times.
Prevention vs. Detection - Breast Cancer
In March 2002, after an interview with radio FM93.8, a professional whose wife had died of cancer, contacted me.
He commented that I should "campaign" for cancer prevention instead of helping people who already had cancer. In
this way, no tears shall be shed from cancer.
Certainly, I agree that prevention is better than cure and made the following reply to him :
"Prevention is a "big" word. It would be best undertaken by the Ministry of Health and Singapore Cancer Society which
have the financial resources to embark on such a large scale public educational program/campaign."
I also suggested that he (a member of the local Rotary club) made the request directly with the relevant bodies.
Since then, I have tried to keep pace with the public awareness program on cancer prevention. Though breast cancer
is not the Number One Killer in Singapore but it has received the most attention due to the prominent effort made by
Breast Cancer Foundation in raising awareness of breast cancer. Statistics has shown that the incidence of breast cancer
is rising among the women population in Singapore.
Interestingly, the Breast Cancer Foundation endorsed the following statement for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in
October 2003 :
"Early detection of breast cancer through Breast Self Examination, Clinical Breast Examination and mammography can help
Important note :
It was mentioned in the book, Cancer Tips - A Handbook for Cancer Prevention and
Management by James M. Metz, M.D. that there is no mammographic abnormality in 15% of the patients diagnosed with cancer-
i.e. some breast cancers never show up on a mammogram. Therefore it is important to perform monthly breast self-examination
and go for regular physical examinations by the doctor.
My thought : "Detection is not the same as prevention". Detection merely precedes treatment.
Women's obsession over their bustlines
Instead of raising awareness of breast cancer in October 2003, the Sunday Times of 19 October 2003 dedicated 5 pages of
write-up on women's obsession over their bustlines. It was reported that implants are big business, now worth an estimated
S$10 million a year. It involves mainly breast enlargement that will cause interference with mammograms.
My concerns :
How would this group of women save themselves through early detection of breast cancer?
Perhaps the Breast Cancer Foundation should come forward to discourage them from undergoing breast
enlargement that will cause interference with mammograms.
(2) Does such breast enlargement surgery increase the risk of contracting breast cancer?
If only the hospitals and cancer institutions are willing to release their findings on the correlation between
breast cancer and breast implants, it will certainly help this group of women make sensible decisions in their "deadly pursuit"
of large bustlines.
It also reported that the bra market here, worth an estimated S$120 million a year, is booming with over 20 brands in the
industry. Bras now come packed with water pads, Vitamin E sacs, air pumps, air sacs, aloe vera, and so forth.
My doubts :
(1) Would these bras produce cancer-causing agents?
(2) Do these "creative" bras bring about more health-related problems?
From the research findings of the Bra and Breast Cancer (BBC) Study carried out by Sydney Ross Singer and his wife,
Soma Grismaijer, they claimed that women could minimize the risk of contracting breast cancer if they go braless.
Their findings are useful even though many people are skeptical about them.
click here to
Jeff Rockel's article - Your Bra could be Killing you! based on BBC Study.
In the book, "Dressed To Kill – The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras" written by Sydney Ross Singer and
Soma Grismaijer, (available at the National Library), the authors provide the following guidelines if women cannot stop
wearing bras altogether:
- Reduce the time the bra is worn each day. From their findings, wearing a bra for less than 12 hours daily seems to be extremely protective against breast cancer
- Do not wear a bra to sleep
- Avoid bras with underwires or other stiff breast-shaping components
- Avoid all push-up bras and most sport bras which typically compress the breasts
- Avoid strapless bras for more than occasional use
- Buy a proper-fitting bra. Tips for selecting proper-fitting bras are given in their book on pages 161-162
My thoughts on breast cancer prevention
As reported, many women are obsessed with their bustlines - uplift, upsize or upgrade.
They go after fanciful bras and are willing to take on the risk of breast implants for the sake of looking sexy and good.
Such attitudes will definitely undermine any form of breast cancer awareness programme.
If we assume that a majority goes for breast enlargement, how then can mammography be carried out?
If wearing bras increase the chance of getting breast cancer, would women be willing to spot a natural bustline?
Perhaps, it is time for these women to make a choice and for some women's groups, cancer institutions and charities
to launch campaigns to educate women to be contented with what nature has given them.
Beauty, after all, is in the eye of the beholder.
Actions speak louder than words. In December 2003, CancerStory.com managed to receive a monetary contribution from NTUC
Income to help defray the printing cost of 5,000 pieces of bookmark that aimed to discourage women from undergoing
breast enlargement. With the help of the National Library Board, these bookmarks were distributed at 22 library branches.
I hope that women will make a wiser choice and not indulge in the deadly pursuit of achieving a sexy appearance.
Overseas reference sites
Breasts & Sex - Extracted from "What Your Mother Never Told You About Sex" by Hilda Hutcherson, M.D.
In truth, though we spend so much time thinking about whether or not we have a perfect-looking pair, breasts are first and
foremost functional organs : We have them so that we can feed our offspring. Eighty percent of a woman's breast is fat and
connective tissue; the rest is made of glands and ducts.
There are many countries in the world where women walk around bare breasted - absolutely un-self-conscious - because breasts
are simply functional body parts, no sexier than a foot or a hand.
Contrary to popular myths, large breasts do not respond better sexually than small ones, and large-busted women don't
necessarily enjoy or crave sex more than women with small breasts. But so much emphasis has been placed on breast size that
some women can't fully enjoy sex because they're concerned that their breasts don't measure up. That insecurity leads many
women to look for methods to make their breasts larger. Of course your breasts can be enlarged by plastic surgery. But be
aware that surgery can sometimes change the sensitivity and sexual response of your breasts and nipple.
Updated on 12 June 2004