Can Tying Sarees Too Tightly Cause Cancer? Yes, but There’s More to It

'Waistline cancer' or 'dhoti cancer', is real, but here's why you (mostly) don't need to worry about it.

2 min read
Hindi Female

Several news articles and videos doing the rounds having been sounding alarms about how wearing tightly tied sarees or tight jeans frequently can increase your risk of cancer, spreading panic among wearers of the popular garments.

While there is some truth in the claim, there's more to it.

FIT speaks to experts to break it down for you.


'Waistline Cancer is Real'

Speaking to FIT, Dr Dinesh Singh, Chairman of Radiation Oncology, Andromeda Cancer Hospital, Sonipat, explains that waistline cancer, also called 'saree cancer' or 'dhoti cancer', is a type of skin cancer.

"What they're talking about here is squamous cell carcinoma," he says.

That this can happen "is not new knowledge," adds Dr Harit Chaturvedi, Chairman, Max Institute of Cancer Care.

Back in 2011, an article was published in the Journal of the Indian Medical Association that spoke of two cases of waistline cancer that were identified, sparking concerns among Indians.

In 2014, doctors at Apollo Speciality Hospital, Chennai, noted the case of a 40-year-old woman who was diagnosed with a non-healing ulcer on the waist, linked to the way she tied her saree.

Dr Singh and Dr Chaturvedi both explain that when there is constant pressure or friction on any part of the body, like a petticoat knot tied on the same spot over and over again for a long period of time, it could cause skin malignancy and cancer formation.


...But, There’s More to It

For one, 'waistline cancer,' is super rare.

"If we look at the total cancers which happen, the percentage of waist cancer incidents is very minuscule. They don't comprise even 0.2 or 0.3 percent of the total cancers," says Dr Singh.

Besides, it's not like wearing tight clothes will straight away cause cancer. "It's a slow progression," explains Dr Ramanjit Singh, a dermatologist at Medanta Medicity in Gurugram.

He says,

"It would start with redness and itching. If the friction still continues, whitish lesions can form, the skin at the site will thicken. If untreated, this can turn into an un-healing ulcer."

This phenomenon is also not restricted to the waist, nor is it specific to any particular garment. This is also true for other tight undergarments, especially those with elastics like tight bra straps, says Dr Chaturvedi.

"Another classic example of constant irritation causing cancer is of a sharp tooth. When it constantly grazes the tongue or the inside of the cheek, we do see some cancers of the tongue or of the cheek."
Dr Dinesh Singh, Chairman of Radiation Oncology, Andromeda Cancer Hospital, Sonipat

The bottomline is, 'waistline cancer' and other skin malignancies from abrasive garments are easy preventable.

  • Avoid wearing anything too tight for long periods of time.

  • If you experience skin irritation, soreness, or redness, avoid garments that can worsen the injury.

  • Treat the symptoms and keep it from aggravating.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Cancer 

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