Breast Cancer and Bras: Recent Research Raises an Alarm Bell

Four years ago, one large study found a compelling connection. In an article entitled Wearing a Tight Bra for Many Hours a Day is Associated with Increased Risk of Breast Cancer [Journal of Oncology Research and Treatment, 2016. 1:1, Vol 1(1)], a group of six authors concluded that “This study demonstrated a correlation between wearing a tight bra for several hours a day and an increased risk of developing breast cancer” due in part to constriction on the lymph nodes. The authors also quoted another study (Hsieh et al, 1991) that “demonstrated that premenopausal women who did not wear a bra had half the risk of developing breast cancer compared with bra wearers.” Yet overall, studies of bra-wearing leading to cancer “have been inconclusive.”

This journal publication of 2016 is one of the more recent, compelling, and so far unchallenged, discoveries of a relationship. Mentioned were the more “well known” factors implicated in breast cancer: early menarche, late menopause, the use of hormone replacement therapy, alcoholism, obesity, smoking, and genetic mutations. The ‘bra and cancer relationship’ has thus returned from one of its original beginnings, the book Dressed to Kill , 1995, by S.R. Singer and S. Grismaijer (Avery Publishing, New York). These two particular authors had claimed:

“We have developed a new theory about breast cancer and have tested that theory by conducting original research on thousands of women (4,730 from San Francisco, Denver, Phoenix, Dallas and New York) and we feel confident that we have discovered something tremendously important. We believe we have found a trigger for breast cancer. It is a trigger that is pulled by women themselves – but the gun is loaded by society.”

Of course, since then, bra manufacturers, fashion designers and some researchers have poo-pooed this idea, only to be facing now new evidence. In discussing primarily how bras block or retard the flow of the lymphatic system of the body, the authors also addressed the effects of culture in controlling what women wear and how they wear it. Their research led them to conclude that not only age, genetics, toxin intake, diet and hormone factors, but especially social factors, contribute to higher breast cancer rates. For example, in studying cultures in which bras are traditionally not worn (e.g., Asia, Mexico, Japan, South America, Egypt) breast cancer rates are four-fold lower than cultures in which bras are customarily worn, i.e., most Western or “Westernizing” cultures. Further, since public nudity is not permitted yet in most societies, pretend nudity is acceptable, namely that an ad seen on television or the internet today stresses that a bra makes a woman look ‘natural, not naked’. Yet the ‘braless look’ from the ’60s Flower Children, evoled to be included in the Women’s Movement, and “was put into high gear by movies and television.” So underwear manufacturers countered this movemnt with ads and propaganda attacking this freedom, and hitting hard with the claim that women ‘needed to support’ their breasts. When this didn’t work particularly well, the industry took another direction, making underwear that looked as though the wearer had nothing on at all” (pretend nudity). [See The Naked Child: Growing Up without Shame, by D.C. Smith and Dr. W. Sparks, 1986. Elysium Press].

As I had learned (and thereafter personally corrected) from a Mayo Clinic specialist in the ’70s, how prolonged wearing of tight underwear and bluejeans for men lowered sperm counts, and that prolonged tight clothing generally was not a good idea for anyone, I tend to lean towards these latest findings about women and bras. Many lessons can be learned also from the 35 million declared nudists/naturists around the world about why clothing shouldn’t be worn (weather permitting) at all. But that’s another, much larger, topic.

Terry L. Hill, PhD, Medical Sociologist

Clothes or No Clothes, and COVID-19

Research today shows a connection between the virus and how clothes can harbour it. One recommended protection move is to shed and wash your work clothes when you get home, and then not wear clothes until the next day. Silly?


Of course, apartment dwellers might have a more difficult time with this concept, and suburbanites too. Owners of acreage-size lots and farmers? Not so much. (trees and fences work great!)

But there are other possible roadblocks to this virus prevention idea. Some that come to mind are:

  1. religious values that associate nudity with shame, sex, sin
  2. traditional family values about the human body
  3. strangers and non-sypathetic relatives who might randomly come to your door, etc.
  4. how many and how large are your windows (in principle, windows are for looking out of, not for looking into).

Nonetheless, if you can get away with it, or you are already doing this, or are a bona fide nudist/naturist, then a no-clothes homelife might not be a bad idea…at least until the pandemic has reached the bottom side of the curve. We have enough trouble as it is accepting the human body as made, so this idea, if it catches on, might alleviate our body prejudices as well as help keep us healthy (and make the world a safer place in more ways than one; but that’s another blog).


GUEST APPEARANCE by Paul Bassett: Cosmologist, internationally-known AI specialist, keynote speaker and published author. His third contribution follows, speaking on Our Universe.

It gives me tremendous pleasure (again) in introducing my long-time friend and colleague, Paul Bassett. Paul has written a blog contribution below, which I know you will find extremely thought-provoking. Your responses are of course, solicited.

Paul Bassett photo Paul Bassett is a retired software engineer, author, entrepreneur, and inventor. His invention of Frame Technology (used around the world to automate software development) won him CIP’s Technology Innovation Award. He’s published numerous papers and a book Framing Software Reuse. Paul was a member of IEEE’s Distinguished Visitor Program, and has given keynote addresses, taught computer science at York University, and co-founded several businesses, including two successful software engineering companies. His MSc in artificial intelligence (U. of Toronto) imbued him with a life-long passion for divining the role and future life in the universe.


What is the Name of Our Universe?

“Our universe” means different things in cultures with different creation myths. In my culture, “our universe” usually means the observable universe, which is a sphere with the Earth at its centre; it is the largest volume of matter that can ever affect us. Its radius is 46.6 billion light-years (1 light-year = 9.46 billion km.) and growing at one light-year per year. But the universe created at the “Big Bang” (13.8 billion years ago) surrounds “our universe”, and is unimaginably larger still. Virtually all the matter in the “Big Bang universe” is moving away from us faster than the speed of light, so can never affect us.

In “our universe”, we can see galaxies that can never see each other because any pair of galaxies that are more than 13.8 billion light-years apart have not had enough time since the Big Bang for light to travel from one to the other. So one could say that those galaxies are outside each other’s universes.

Finally, there is the notion of a ‘multiverse’, a universe some cosmologists speculate is spawning universes all the time, just as it spawned our “Big Bang universe”. With so many universes, there is no name for any of them! That said, “our universe” is the de facto name for the one and only universe that matters to us.


Is artificial intelligence intelligent? or is it just machine learning?

There are many ways to define intelligence. Almost all of them involve problem solving proficiency. Problem-solving in turn, is deeply connected to the notion of algorithm, a method for converting inputs to outputs, or in mathematics, computing a function. Every computable function* has a countably infinite number of algorithms that can compute it, each varying greatly in its proficiency – the time and memory it requires to compute its outputs.

All brains and computers work by performing algorithms*. Brains have algorithms whose outputs are algorithms. Normally, brains invent/improve algorithms that computers use, as is. But ever since computers were invented, a goal has been to enable computers to invent/improve their own algorithms, what is commonly referred to as machine learning.

Human intelligence correlates with how quickly one can learn, with the vastness of one’s knowledge, expertise, wisdom, creativity,…This somewhat vague list of attributes all boil down, as I said, to the proficiency of various algorithms. After decades of frustratingly small advances, algorithms have recently been devised that allow simulated, multi-layered neural networks to learn to become much better than any human at quite a few impressive problem domains: from playing games such as checkers, chess, backgammon, poker and go, to medical diagnoses, to language translation, to facial recognition, to driving cars, to big-data pattern recognition, and so on. These machines are said to employ deep learning (“deep” means many layers of simulated neurons, each learning a different aspect of how to solve an overall problem).

Are these machines intelligent? In their domains of expertise, YES. Do they exhibit general intelligence? NO, because they still lack many key algorithms. In particular, no deep learning system today can give reasons for its choices (e.g., why it makes particular chess moves); nor do we know how to enable a machine to be an expert in multiple domains (e.g., chess and medicine). Billions of dollars are being spent on achieving general-purpose AI. And recent rapid progress leaves less and less room for skepticism*.

What is clear now is this: Like humans do, AIs will acquire their intelligence, not from human programmers, but by learning from experience, aided and unaided by teachers. Programmers may give them their initial learning algorithms, but what they learn, including learning to learn better, will emerge from an AI’s interactions with its environments.

*For those who still believe brains can think in ways that machines never can: Almost a century ago computer science pioneer Alan Turing and mathematician Alonzo Church, conjectured that a certain well-defined set contained all and only the functions that matter and energy can ever compute. (This countably infinite set is infinitesimal compared to the uncountably infinite set of all functions.) Since then, many have tried to refute it and failed. More recently, physicist David Deutsch finally proved the conjecture, assuming only that matter and energy obey the laws of quantum mechanics. Thus both brains and (quantum) computers are confined to thinking using algorithms in that set.


Aging and Psycho-Social Changes

“Oh, I’m my own Grandpa’…Yes I’m my own Grandpa’…”

Or so the song goes.

Some days I feel that way. When my Dad was 71 I used to think “Holy crap! He’s 71. He’s old!’ I would have been about 42. Even though he could still build steps down to the lake at the cottage. And shoot a partridge dead on at any distance with one shot. And fix his manifold pipe on his station-wagon. And catch the biggest muskie. My Mom at 71 could still go bowling, and make fantastic dinners, and oil paint, and play the accordion.

Dad always said “time speeds up the older you get”, and boy, was he right about that. It just feels like yesterday I had two horses, 2 goats, 9 steers, 100 chickens, and 32 racing pigeons while living on my old farm on the 2nd Concession. That was 38 years ago. But I can hear them, and smell them, and picture how I had to wash the horses down after we had a long ride, and free the goats horns from the page-wire fence ’cause she thought the grass was greener on the other side. And I remember the sauna parties we had on Saturday night, when 3-4 naked couples would polish off a case of beer and fry ourselves in the interest of cleanliness at +85C. Then jump in the snow at -20C. And in the Spring have to fish frogs out of the well. And plant our 40′ x 60” garden with enough veggies to get us through winter. And go to Community Center dances and dance to Elvis Presley, the Beach Boys, and Bobby Curtola, with other men’s wives who by 11 pm had no idea who you were. Occasionally, I didn’t either, but those were the days when tomorrow was a sure thing.

But today, 6 years after having had prostate cancer (I’m still clear), and suffering the loss of two children 30-40 years ago to an inherited terminal disease, and not teaching university any more due to poverty salaries for part-time instructors, and losing a college director position because the college owners of 124 colleges in Canada and California went bankrupt, and losing three of my best buddies to disease in this past year; yet, enjoying my second marriage, my two grow daughters, and living in a large house I designed, on 100 private acres, with good friends as tenants, and a trout stream 100 feet away, and now doing consulting and publishing work – life has been good for the past 12 years. But time is accelerating.

Everyone has a story to tell. The psychology of self-change from external ‘beyond-your-control’ events, and of internal struggles along the way, is different yet similar with most people I have met. Adaptations of mood, of new talents and interests, of new relationships and responsibilities, of physical changes, of health and job and finance changes …..all figure prominently in the trajectory to older age we all experience. One’s life view, one’s values, interests, and community of friends, tend to solidify into a more manageable, smaller world, as we age. Things become more predictable yet often more significant when things go wrong, especially our health.

The people with whom we would trust our lives and deepest secrets we can now count on one hand. The obituaries become read more often, and eating ‘experimental food dishes’ becomes less interesting. At “retirement”, especially, one’s perspectives on mortality, sexuality, appearances, hobbies, routines, parenting/grand-parenting, and recreation, take on a whole new meaning. This “life review” process of reminiscing can be gratifying or can lead to despair, anxiety and depression depending on the amount and degree of regret experienced. But the life review process is neither universal nor specific to older age. because any number of events can trigger a review, e.g., loss of a loved one, personal bankruptcy, loss of a job, divorce, or major health concerns. Levinson’s (1978) “seasons of life” theory seems to more accurately reflect the ‘stage theory’ of life than those of Erikson, Piaget, Freud or Jung. Levinson suggests that we all go through four psycho-social ‘eras’: 1. childhood to the end of adolescence (age 0-22); 2. early adulthood (ages 17-45); 3. middle age (40-65); and 4. late adulthood (60 and over). Adjusting to and balancing changing personal circumstances and a changing social world, predicts how successful one’s development becomes.

So changes in cognition (intelligence, learning, memory) occur along the path of life. And physical changes may limit or enhance life experiences. My uncle and aunt lived to be 96 and 94 respectively, and were intellectually sharp and reasonably mobile before they died. My wife’s mother is 89 and still drives to the grocery store. And my friend’s mother is 100, lives alone, and can still win most of the time in a card game. Conversely, I have lost friends and relatives in their 50s, 60s, and 70s to health problems.

As well as being a lifelong process, ‘aging’ as stages is socially constructed rather than inevitable. Each of us is a product of time, pace and circumstance, and yet only broad generalizations can be made about what constitutes aging. One of my university students was 90 when she took my 2nd-year sociology of education course. Having sex at 80 is not uncommon. Climbing a tall tree at 75 has been done, I’m sure. And running a marathon at 77, sky-diving in the Andes at 76, and writing a famous book at 82 – have all been done.

We have to avoid the ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ syndrome of assuming that because we have reached a certain age, we must act a certain way in spite of our psycho-social and physical integrity. Life can be too short, and can speed up too fast. There are many things to put in one’s “bucket list”. Tomorrow is a new day.

Source (2): Levinson, D. (1978). The Seasons of a Man’s Life. (1996). The Seasons of a Woman’s Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.





Syrian Al-Qaeda women: Searching for combat, martyrdom on the front lines – Al Jazeera America

Syrian Al-Qaeda women: Searching for combat, martyrdom on the front lines Al Jazeera America ANTAKYA, Turkey — Hala, 22, cuts a diminutive figure in her loose black abaya, a black headscarf framing her large, almond-shaped, pale blue eyes and fair…


How misguided. How sad. How wasteful. How contrary to the development of a peaceful world community and to women’s rights everywhere. 

Avid cyclists could have higher prostate cancer risk

Men who frequently bike ride may be more likely to develop the disease, though the sport most likely won’t impact fertility or sexual function, according to a new study (Frequent cycling linked to higher prostate cancer risk


Cyclists need to read this. Blood flow and nerve damage have been known for some time as side effects. 

Late diagnosis of colorectal cancer has alarming trend – The Columbian

Late diagnosis of colorectal cancer has alarming trend
The Columbian
Legacy Cancer Institute released data Thursday on the number of Stage 3 and Stage 4 colorectal cancer cases being diagnosed as a result of visits to area emergency departments.


It is important therefore to have regular check-ups, including colonoscopies. 

Tweet from @FashionweekNYC

Happy 8th Birthday to an amazing Fashion movie, The Devil Wears Prada!


Symbolic interactionism can be a powerful theory in sociology to explain human behaviour. 

What values are being expressed here? How would your impressions change if they were a) all in blue jeans, b) all in pyjamas , c) all in uniforms, d) all nude?  How does context encourage fashion?  If these women were 85 years old, how would wearing the same dresses affect our perceptions of the female body? What power is there in colour?