Us girls are gluttons for punishment. We know how much those five-inch heels are going to kill our feet, but we still opt to wear them anyway, even if it does mean we'll be limping and grimacing in pain by 9 o'clock. 

But while high heels can cause damage to feet and joints, new research claims there are much more serious health issues to consider, including a risk of developing cancer, experts say. 

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Helen Sewell, a communication coach, told MPs that high heels are costing British businesses £260 million a year, with more and more women taking sick leave due to heel-related strains or injuries. 

'Wearing heels has a serious impact on your ability to think properly, your ability to breathe properly and your ability to deliver an executive presence,' she told the Commons committee inquiry into the effect of dress codes in the workplace.

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Last year phsyiologists at the University of North Carolina reported that wearing heels for long periods of time weakens the muscles, and can lead to painful injuries. 

Not only that, heels can exacerbate existing problems like painful bunions as well as causing ailments like hammer toes (permanently bent toes), muscle fatigue and osteoarthritis (inflammation and damage to the joints).

But now, Dr David Agus, leading cancer specialist and professor of medicine at the University of Southern California, claims there could be a link between uncomfortable high-heeled footwear and cancer. 

Professor Agus' book – A Short Guide to a Long Life – highlights the dangers of wearing uncomfortable shoes. He states that they don't just cause pain and joint damage, they can trigger low-level inflammation too, as the body struggles to adapt to its unnatural posture. 

Whilst inflammation is part of the body's natural healing process, chronic inflammation can lead to a whole host of health issues. 

'Certain kinds of inflammation have been linked to our most troubling degenerative diseases, including heart disease, Alzheimer's, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, and can dramatically increase cancer risk,' says Professor Agus.

'When the body's DNA repair shop is closed, it leaves us vulnerable to cancer and other diseases,' he says.

If the body has to deal with constant chronic inflammation, it can shut down the DNA repair process to concentrate on healing the inflammation instead, and that can leave the body susceptible to illnesses such as cancer, says Professor Agus. 

He says that wearing heels are 'an unnecessary hindrance to optimal health', and can cause damage to our bodies that could otherwise be avoided. 

Whilst high heels aren't the direct cause of cancer, he argues that wearing them all the time could hinder 'your own natural cancer-fighting abilities', and therefore increase your risk of developing the illness.

The bottom line is, if your heels hurt, it's probably best to take them off. And of course invest in a comfy pair of flats too!


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