The Control Group

I have been indulging in a solitary vice again, but don't worry - I mean reading, not what you thought. While perusing the Skeptical Inquirer I came across a review of an odd little tome of pseudoscience called Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras. Now really, what would your average brassiere obsessed crossdresser do but immediately sign on to the library computer and get a copy delivered to the local library to find out what's going on here. You didn't think I would pay for the thing, did you?

The authors, Sydney Ross Singer and wife Soma Grismaijer, have a theory that wearing a bra so tight it makes red marks in the skin or wearing one for more than 12 hours a day restricts the lymph system and thus causes a buildup of toxins in the breast that in turn cause cancer. Unfortunately the book is so riddled with contradictions and inaccuracies I can only assume the publishers were after the big bucks with a controversial topic. While there is much good information in the book, there is no way to tell what's true and what's speculation.

To give you some idea of their scientific leanings, when Soma discovered a lump in her breast they decided to seek alternative cancer treatment without even getting the lump diagnosed as cancer. They developed their theory with no testing of lymph function and their sole research was a poorly constructed and poorly controlled survey. It should be no surprise they made no effort to confirm that their cancer group actually had been diagnosed with cancer. Oh, what fools these mortals be! (Thanks Will.)

In response to all this a spokesperson for the American Cancer Institute Society stated "We look foreword to the publication of the Bra and Breast Cancer Study in a peer reviewed scientific journal, where the study results can be properly evaluated."

Humm... they seem to think a properly controlled scientific study would carry more weight than speculation and surveys. If you are aware of how scientific studies are conducted (Pay attention here, the latest survey revealed 60% of you haven't a clue) you will know there are two or more groups studied. One is the group you want to test for the phenomena you are investigating, and the other is a control group to make sure the results do not reflect some unexpected effect. Well, my sisters. that's where you and I come in. Can you think of a better control group for this study than a group of men dedicated to wearing bras?

Just think of it, by becoming a volunteer in the cause of science you will be able to go to work next Monday morning wearing your favorite black lace bra, as long as you cinch it up nice and tight. I can just see it now, you walk in the door and take off your coat and one of your co-workers in the machine shop strikes up a conversation:


"Hey Earl, I notice somthin' different about youse dis morning."

"Yeah, Sam, I'm doin' my bit for science. I'm in a scientific study. Da Doc says I gotta wear dis t'ing for the next six months. 12 hours a day, seven days a week. It's real important, it could mean life and death for some broads."

"Ya don't say, Earl. That's very selfless of youse. I'm sure da boss will want to promote someone who is so giving dat he will make such a sacrifice for da cause of science."

"Youse may be right, Sam, but I just hope I don't louse up da shop safety record if I get dese hooters caught in da lathe!"


Or perhaps you're a high school science teacher, the scene would go something like this about 3 seconds after the end of the first period when the Principal invites you to his office:


"Mr. Smith, several of your students have commented on latest lab session. I must admit I have never considered using the Victoria's Secret catalog as a source for experimental materials."

"Why, Mr. Jones, I have always subscribed to the principle that scientific inquiry must be completely unfettered, although I will admit this piece of apparatus about my pectorals is rather constricting." It did serve as a good starting point to explain the fundamentals of dynamic tension.

"Fascinating, Mr. Smith. Could I inquire if this, uh, experiment was part of the syllabus?

"Why no, Mr. Jones. I have been selected to participate in a scientific study on the relationship between brassieres and the incidence of breast cancer in women. Needless to say I'm in the control group."

"So I see, Mr. Smith. May I inquire as to the extent and scope of this experiment."

"Of course, Mr. Jones. Because of encouragement from the rest of the staff we have expanded it to include an animal study. In a stunning show of interdepartmental harmony, Mrs. Wilson of the home economics department has her students sewing little bitty bras for several rats. They did quail a bit at the thought of designing brassieres with six cups apiece, but we realized each rat could serve as it's own control by only using two breasts for testing."

Brilliant, Mr. Smith. I assume the Biology department supplied the, uh, test animals.

"No, Mrs. Tweed of the cafeteria staff had a far better supply of rats than the biology department."

"A fine method of saving the taxpayer's money, Mr. Smith. How long is this course of experimentation to last? I will need time to prepare proper explanatory materials for the students and their parents if it is to be lengthy."

"Six months, Mr. Jones. I would be pleased to prepare abstracts of the study for the staff and conduct an extracurricular briefing on the results of the Study."

"Wonderful, Mr. Smith. I'm sure the PTA will be pleased by your exemplary attitude to volunteerism."


So I urge you to call Mr. Singer as soon a possible and volunteer your services, you'll be glad you did and the world will be a better place for your sacrifice.

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