Can High Heels Give You Cancer?


Could these beauties be killing more than your feet? (Photo: Getty Images)

There are certain well-known factors that raise your risk for developing cancer, like smoking and obesity. But there are others that experts just aren’t sure about. Now, one doctor says he’s pinpointed one of those mysterious factors: wearing high heels.

In his book, A Short Guide to a Long Life, cancer specialist David Agus, M.D., a professor of medicine at the University of Southern California, recommends taking a pass on wearing high heels and other shoes that are uncomfortable. His argument: Wearing uncomfortable shoes doesn’t just cause pain — it can trigger low-level inflammation in your body, which can raise your risk of developing cancer.

“There’s clearly an association with inflammation and cancer,” Agus tells Yahoo Beauty. “It’s important to get rid of sources of inflammation. And wearing your shoes to the point that your feet hurt — that’s a source of inflammation.”

While Agus says wearing painful heels or shoes here and there probably won’t do anything, putting up with foot pain daily can have “significant ramifications.”

Here’s why: Agus says that cancer is often caused by damaged or faulty genes within our DNA, but anything that damages DNA or messes with its ability to repair itself can increase the risk a person will develop cancer. Chronic inflammation can cause the body to concentrate its efforts on fixing the inflammation and may upset your body’s ability to repair its DNA, he explains.

“If, at the end of the day, your feet hurt, that’s worth paying attention to,” he says. It’s not just foot pain; Agus points out that any pain in your body is inflammation, and can raise your risk of developing cancer and other chronic illnesses.

Is this for real? Yes-ish, Jack Jacoub, M.D., a medical oncologist and director of thoracic oncology at California’s MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center, tells Yahoo Beauty.

“We know that inflammation probably contributes to the risk of various types of cancers,” he says. “When it’s not controlled by the body, it usually does detrimental things to the body’s health — and that applies to the risk of cancer and chronic medical diseases.”

Jacoub says that uncomfortable high heels may raise your risk of cancer, but “we’re talking about years and years of this,” he says, noting that the same can be true for anything that causes you pain over time, like too-tight jeans.

Jacoub says the best way to lower your cancer risk is to listen to your body, maintain a healthy weight, minimize your alcohol intake, don’t smoke, and avoid diets that are rich in fats and processed sugars. You can also try to eat an anti-inflammatory diet, he says, which may help combat bodily inflammation.

And, Jacoub adds, don’t do things that are uncomfortable over a prolonged period of time. “There’s a signal here: The body is telling you, ‘I’m not comfortable with these things,’” he says.

Agus agrees. “Every once in a while if you want to wear heels that are uncomfortable, that’s fine,” he says. “But as much as possible, wear shoes that are comfortable. Your body deserves it.”

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