October is breast cancer awareness month and news of a soon-to-be released “radiation resistant bra” sounds like perfect timing, The Demron Bra is called “the only bra that reduces radiation damage” and Miami-based creator Dr. Ronald Demeo hopes it will help women who are at risk of breast cancer stay safe.
If this sounds a little familiar, that’s OK…it is. The bra has never been to market, but its possibilities have been mentioned by the media since 2009. Four whole years ago.
A spokesperson for Dr. Demeo’s team said it has taken this long to make, as they’ve been finessing the design. Now they’re ready to sell it.
But what’s the deal here — Is this useful?
Let’s start with the facts. Demron is a lightweight material that shields bodies from radiation. It’s used in military operations, and in high-radiation circumstances such as hospital surgery rooms. The fabric is thin, feels lighter than Kevlar and is also very flexible. The exact makeup of the fabric is a secret, but the Radshield website (created by the doctor) describes it as a “Non toxic polymer.”
Demron has been used in hazmat suits and tactical vests and Dr. Demeo says on his website that it protects from gamma radiation.
The Demron bra is a new take on this material. Dr Demeo has taken the traditional brasserie and worked with the Demron fabric to create bras suitable for everyday wear. It comes in colors black, white and nude and is sized 34 to 36 B, C & D Cup / 38, 40, and 42D. I have also a seen a pink bra. The idea is for them to be used by women working in hospitals and those who are “high risk”.
“They’ll cost only a little more than a regular bra,” said Rosemary Staltare, PR agent for Dr. Demeo. “If you’re normally paying $40, these will be $68.”
But why would you need to wear a radiation protecting bra daily? The average woman doesn’t come into daily contact with dangerous radiation.
“The breast tissue is the most absorbent part of the body,” Staltare said. “They’re sensitive to X-rays and vulnerable to the environment. The breasts are the most exposed, and though we can’t say this will stop you getting breast cancer, they will protect you on a daily basis.”
Protect you from what exactly?
“There are radioactive waves all around you,” Staltare said, “in the air, from cellphones, and X-ray machines in the airport. I always wear the Demron bra when I travel.”
”Radiation can be a very powerful tool in curing breast cancer,” said Dr. Nancy Mendenhall, professor of radiation oncology at the University of Florida and medical director of University of Florida Proton Institute.
What about using these in hospitals, where active radiation is used?
“Its not a concern,” said Mendenhall. “We have very strict guidelines on the degree of exposure that nurses can have, and we have radiation safety officers. I doubt that this would be necessary, as the risk of incidental exposure is so very, very low.”
What about airports then?
Well details about whether X-ray radiation in scanning machine is harmful varies.
Peter Rez, physics professor at Arizona State University calculated the likelihood of X-ray scanners causing harm. He said that “the probability of fatal cancer is 1 in 20 million per microSV.”
On the other hand, Dr. David Brenner from Columbia University said, "Recent research indicates that about five percent of the population — one person in 20 — is especially sensitive to radiation. These people have gene mutations that make them less able to repair X-ray damage to their DNA. Two examples are the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 mutations associated with breast and ovarian cancer, but scientists believe many more such defects are unknown.”
For now, the jury is out. It might not be a bad idea to wear a Demron bra when at the airport if you are concerned, but then again, you can opt out of the machines if you so choose.