Cheap engagement rings and cheap wedding rings have been the hottest trend in recent years, with women in many countries now buying them to cover up their shame and embarrassment.
But as the trend has gained traction, there are concerns over the long-term effects on women’s health.
One of the most common reasons for purchasing an engagement ring is for socialising, says Sarah MacLeod, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Queensland.
But the effects of using an engagement band for long-lasting physical or sexual gratification can have long-standing, negative effects on the woman’s health, including breast cancer.
“When women wear engagement rings for sexual or social purposes, the majority of women have had breast cancer,” MacLeod says.
“We know there is a link between breast cancer and engagement rings.
But what we don’t know is whether they also have long term consequences on the women.”
It’s not just women who are at riskA study published in the journal Sex Roles found that women who wore engagement rings regularly were more likely to have a family member with breast cancer than women who did not.
And a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that those who wore the rings for physical reasons were at a greater risk of having their own family member develop breast cancer as well.
The risks associated with these types of rings are so great that they can have lasting impacts on the health of the women, said Dr Lisa Clements, director of the Women’s Health and Wellbeing Research Group at the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
“What you can do, what you need to do, is wear these rings for a minimum of 30 days,” she said.
“And then just keep them on, you don’t have to change them.”
And this is where things get tricky, says Dr Sarah Macleod, a clinical associate clinical professor of Psychiatry at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
“It’s actually the women who wear the rings that can be affected,” she says.
Dr Macleods study, which looked at over 400 women in Australia, showed that the most likely reasons for wearing an engagement rings were:Being married, being single, getting married early, and wanting to have children.
“These women who have these rings on all the time, they’re more likely [to develop breast or ovarian cancer] because the pressure they put on their breasts and their ovaries, and the pressure that they put in the mouth and on their lips when they have a lot of contact with people,” Dr Macleoda said.
If you have a ring that you have to wear for a period of time, or that’s very tight and there’s a lot going on in your mouth and lips, then it’s not going to be a good idea to wear them for a long period of period of days, she said, adding that women with breast or other cancers should talk to their doctor about taking a break from engagement rings altogether.
The research also found that more than two-thirds of women who had had their own breast or breast cancer in the past year said they had not worn their engagement rings in years.
But why would women do this?
“It seems like a really bad idea, particularly if you’re young,” Dr Clements said.
The researchers found that engagement rings appeared to be associated with more than just physical reasons.
“For women with higher risk factors for breast cancer, it’s possible that engagement ring use may be linked to a broader set of social factors, such as a higher level of social support,” Dr MACLEOD said.
While engagement rings are popular with many young women, it may not be as appealing for them as it is for older women, who may not feel comfortable being seen with them, Dr MacLeod said.
She said it is important for women to know that engagement is not the only way to cover their body, but they also need to consider other forms of beauty that are safe, ethical and practical.
“If you’re wearing a ring for a purpose other than covering up, like a wedding ring, then that’s really inappropriate,” Dr Bower said.
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