NEW YORK – Gwyneth Paltrow is at it again, disseminating unfounded medical advice through her widely-read lifestyle website, Goop.com, angering women and doctors everywhere.
Goop’s most recent email newsletter included an article that resurrected the long-discredited and fear-inducing claim that too-tight bras cause breast cancer. The article, penned by Dr. Habib Sadeghi, sparked outrage throughout the medical community, especially because the American Cancer Society has refuted the claim time and again, stating "there are no scientifically valid studies that show wearing bras of any type causes breast cancer.”
“Gwyneth Paltrow continues to give unsafe medical advice,” says Dr. Alexandra Sowa, an NYC-based internist and clinical instructor in medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College. “By re-circulating this myth, Gwyneth Paltrow places the blame of getting breast cancer on women. It’s as if she is saying, ‘By wearing a bra, you brought the cancer upon yourself.’ Women have enough to worry about – whether or not to wear a bra should not be one of them.”
Dr. Monique Gary, a Breast Surgical Oncologist at Pennsylvania-based Grand View Health and Director of the center’s Cancer Risk Assessment Program, also says the idea that bras cause cancer is erroneous. Gary says Paltrow’s decision to highlight the article fosters shame among women fighting a disease with many unpreventable and unavoidable risk factors.
“It's important for those with influence to direct attention to the preventable risk factors for breast cancer and educate and empower women to make lifestyle changes that we know really matter in the fight against breast cancer,” she says. “For example, the new screening guidelines proposed by the American Cancer Society for women at average risk for breast cancer. I'd love to see women in the limelight speak up about that.”
Sowa agrees, echoing the importance of focusing on real preventable risk factors instead of disseminating fear-mongering information.
“Spreading misinformation and fear takes the focus away from what we know about breast cancer prevention -- that maintaining a healthy weight, being physical active, not smoking, and knowing your genetic risk factors are the only ways to reduce the risk of breast cancer,” Sowa says.
This isn’t the first time Paltrow has sparked controversy. Earlier this month, Paltrow posted a photo to her 1.3 million Instagram followers of herself lying in a sauna with a box of tissues and a thermometer on hand, as a way to beat the flu -- advice with deadly consequences, according to the medical community. And in January, she spread misinformation about the benefits of an herbal vaginal steam – another dangerous recommendation.
“You don’t go to the doctor’s to be entertained, so don’t turn to entertainers for medical advice,” says Sowa. “It is dangerous for non-medical practitioners to be offering medical advice. My hope is that the more negative attention she receives from the medical community, the less likely people will be to follow her ill-conceived advice.”