Your Bra Can Kill You (and Other Medical Myths)

by J.M. on May 20, 2010 · 12 comments

Medical myths — sometimes they’re hilarious and sometimes they’re downright dangerous information. No matter how often they’re debunked, people will still believe them. Why? Because when you’re told something is true throughout your entire life, it can be difficult to change your mind — no matter how many facts come to light. And there will always be things we don’t understand. So we make up stories and myths to comfort us. Medical myths are no different. We want explanations. So we create them. We hear things. We spread them. After all, when was the last time you heard an interesting tidbit and did research to prove its validity before telling someone else what you heard? Probably not ever.

That’s how medical myths can spread. Now let’s look at a few of my favorites, including the one in our title here. I hope you enjoy this countdown of 10 medical myths and their corresponding truths.

digest gum

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10. You can’t digest chewing gum (or it will take 7 years).

You might have heard this when you were a kid. This little medical myth supposedly had to do with the gum being too sticky to be digested properly. Your digestive system is designed to deal with much worse. When it comes across something indigestible, like chewing gum, that doesn’t mean it stays in your stomach. It still passes through your body — and no, it won’t take 7 years.

Don’t believe me? Read this.

dead hair

Credit: BigStockPhoto.com

9. Your hair keeps growing even after you die.

No…. No, no, no! First of all, your hair is already dead, even while you’re still alive and kicking. The only part “alive” is what’s under your scalp. And your scalp is the key to this myth. Here’s why it can look like hair still grows a little bit after death — the body dehydrates and the scalp recedes. That exposes the portion of each hair strand that was previously hidden beneath the scalp. Our next myth has a similar debunking.

Don’t believe me? Read this.

shave

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8. If you shave, your hair will grow back faster.

This is just silly. When you shave, you’re essentially just cutting the strands of hair off where they’re level with your skin. You’re not doing anything that affects the growth rate below that skin. Why does it sometimes feel like you have stubble within minutes of shaving then? Well, remember how we mentioned a corpse’s dehydrated scalp receding to make it look like hair was growing after death? Your skin does something similar. If you shave when your skin is wet or moisturized or plumped up for any other reason, it expands over a tiny bit of the hair strands. You shave, and you do it flush with that plumped up skin. But when you dry off and cool down and your skin tightens back up, it pulls back away from the hair it was previously covering.

Don’t believe me? Read this.

does coffee cure a hangover or drunkenness

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7. Coffee will sober up a drunk.

This is one of our most dangerous medical myths in this list. Why? Because the last thing anyone needs is a drunk out on the roads driving because they had some coffee and they think they’re fine. They’re not. The caffeine in coffee can mask the sedative properties of alcohol to a degree. But that’s it. It’s not a cure for drunkenness. At best all you end up with is a wide-awake drunk. If you’ve had too much to drink, stay off the roads (coffee or not).

Don’t believe me? Read this.

carrots

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6. Eating carrots will fix your eyesight.

There’s some truth to this myth. The nutrients in carrots are good for your eyes. The problem is when people assume they can fix problems with their eyesight by loading up on carrots. Once the damage is done, carrots aren’t going to cure what ails you.

Don’t believe me? Read this.

vegetables

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5. Fresh vegetables are better for you than frozen ones.

I can’t blame people for believing this. In fact, sometimes it’s true (such as if you pick your vegetable from your own organic garden in your backyard and eat them immediately). What makes the more general statement a myth is when you compare supermarket “fresh” vegetables with frozen ones. You’re probably actually getting the healthier option from the freezer section. Why? Because those vegetables are often frozen very soon after being harvested, whereas the vegetables in the produce section could have been sitting on a truck or in the store for days before you actually buy them. The frozen vegetables are therefore sometimes “fresher.”

Don’t believe me? Read this.

water

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4. Everyone needs to drink 8 glasses of water every day.

Any time you see the word “everyone,” assume someone’s BSing you. Very little in this world applies to every person equally. That includes water consumption. No, not everyone needs to drink 8 glasses of water each day. Some people need less. Larger people and athletes might need even more. On top of that variation, you also have to consider that we get some of our required fluid intake from the foods we eat (especially if we eat a lot of fruits and vegetables). That counts towards our total. So do other types of drinks like coffee, tea, and juice. And yes… drinks with caffeine still count. While caffeine is a diuretic, you don’t lose as much fluid from that effect as you gain from having the drink. Drink when you’re thirsty. If you’re not, it doesn’t always mean you should force yourself. You might just be getting plenty of fluids in other ways.

Don’t believe me? Read this.

bed rest

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3. Bed rest is best for a back ache.

I used to believe this myth, and oh how I suffered for it! When we don’t feel well or when we’re in pain, sometimes our instinct is to lie down and rest until we feel better. Unfortunately that can sometimes do more damage than good. Studies have shown that getting back to movement faster actually speeds recovery, while staying in bed can hinder it.

Don’t believe me? Read this.

cold

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2. If you go outside without a coat (or hat, or in the rain, etc.), you’ll catch a cold.

I’ve always been a bit of an outwear rebel, much to my mother’s dismay. As a kid I often left home without a coat (even in the winter). Oh, I had plenty of them. I just didn’t want to be bothered. Even to this day you’ll rarely catch me with shoes on my feet — I wear flip flops unless there’s at least a half an inch of snow on the ground (with very few exceptions). If I could go out barefoot all the time, I probably would. And do you know what? I catch colds far less than anyone else I know! How can that be? Our parents and grandparents always told us that if we went out without our hat, or our boots, or our coats, or if we got soaked in the rain without an umbrella, we’d catch a cold. Hogwash! Here’s a simple fact: cold and wet weather cannot cause you to catch a cold. You can only catch a cold if you actually get a cold virus. When it’s cold season, it’s not about what you wear — it’s about avoiding those that could spread the virus. You can also help by regularly washing your hands. And on that note, when I finish this article, I think I might just go out and play in the rain — cold-free!

Don’t believe me? Read this.

bra

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1. Underwire bras can give you breast cancer.

Did you know some people really believe that wearing underwire bras can kill you because they think they lead to breast cancer? Here’s a very simplistic reasoning behind the myth — the bras supposedly squish up your nice little lymphatic system all day long, which causes toxins to accumulate, which leads to cancer. Well good news ladies (and the occasional underwire-wearing gent — oh, you know you’re out there). There has been no scientific data that proves this myth to be true. So no worries. You don’t have to give up your favorite bra to protect your breasts.

Don’t believe me? Read this.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Robin Blanca June 10, 2010 at 1:25 pm

We live in a world of myths. Look at how much publicity is given to the risk of buying a used child car seat for your baby. Then we feed them hot dogs and french fries when they are a few years older.

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hmmm June 23, 2010 at 11:10 am

There is a reason behind the car seats. Once a car seat has been involved in a crash, even bumper to bumper you are supposed to replace it because it weakens the seat. You don’t know if someone has been involved in an accident when purchasing a used seat. It’s not as if they are gonna say “Yeah got rear ended, but hey don’t worry, the seat was good enough for my kids, so its def ok for yours”

Kind of retarded comparing car seats to french fries don’t you think.

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Jenn Mattern June 23, 2010 at 11:26 am

I wouldn’t say “retarded” is a called-for comment. There’s no need to be rude, especially if you aren’t willing to take credit for your words publicly. Both can be bad for your kids. One can lead to lifelong bad habits and health problems and the other to more sudden, accident-prone ones. Which do you think is more common? Just because one doesn’t have ill effects immediately doesn’t mean it’s a “retarded” comparison. Both are irresponsible things to expose young children to, and frankly I think it’s a perfectly logical argument to say if you want to ban one, why not the other?

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Trev August 22, 2010 at 12:05 pm

What is a “called-for” comment, Jenn? Only one you agree with?

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eduo August 24, 2010 at 5:19 am

The comment may be blunt, but it’s still accurate. Both things have no relationship whatsoever, correlating them is spurious and leads to fallacies.

Both arguments can be had without having to feel the need to “reinforce” the point with the other.

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J.M. August 25, 2010 at 10:59 am

Trev, Read before commenting. I’m not the one who took issue with someone for disagreeing. In fact I said both points had some validity. But referring to someone as “retarded” is not appropriate — end of story. Commenters are welcome to disagree. They are not welcome to insult each other. And if you still have questions about what is and isn’t “called for” here, refer to the comment policy linked at the top of this site.

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Deleted Picture Recovery September 7, 2010 at 3:19 am

I think your blog will help so many superstitious people to overcome from their superstition about above myths. Keep posting such an informative blogs

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Secret Admirer April 8, 2011 at 12:14 pm

I am literally in love with you, dear J.M :) I’m serious, you are awesome <3 and yeah, I still don't know if your a guy or girl, but still, I love you, dear stranger :)

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Katey September 24, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Interesting. Glad my bra isn’t going to kill me, lol.

Katey, Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney

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GrammaB July 31, 2013 at 12:58 am

Not a problem for me.. My “living bra” died.

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Zyada September 28, 2012 at 10:54 am

I agree that underwire bras aren’t going to cause cancer, but I think there’s one possible exception. I have had a bra (and heard of one other person with the same issue) that caused a lymph node in my arm pit to swell up. Stopped wearing the bra, swelling went away, started wearing the bra, it came back. This caused me to have to go for an advanced test, because it showed up on a mammogram, and they had to take a better look at the node. It wasn’t cancer, just the node swelling up. I stopped wearing that bra after the second time I had the bad mammogram; never had a bad once since.

So ladies, if you get a lump in your armpit after wearing a new bra, and it goes away when you stop wearing the bra, toss THAT bra.

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