No single type of cosmetic procedure is performed as frequently as breast augmentation. Combine this with the many other kinds of breast surgeries—including reductions, lifts, and revisions—carried out each year by plastic surgeons, and you get the picture: we are breast-obsessed! For your interest and amusement, we have pulled together some of the most fascinating facts about breasts.
A Multitude of Masses
There is an astounding variety of breast shapes and sizes. Some are exceedingly small, while others can grow to immense proportions, demanding industrial-strength support garments, with the largest bra size ever reported currently at 102ZZZ—imagine the underwire on that thing! Breast size seems to be trending upward too, at least in the US, where the currently reported average bra size sits around 36C.
Breasts are by no means unique to humans, as all mammals have mammary glands in some form or another (it’s right in the name). Most breasts, however, are temporary, swelling only around the time that offspring are born in order to provide nourishment, and then receding back to a much smaller size once the young have been weaned. This is almost universally the case—except for humans. Upon reaching sexual maturity, human females have full, active breasts for the majority of their lives, a regular reminder of their reproductive potential.
The Virtues of Variety
Neither breast size nor shape are completely stable, with factors such as age, weight, and pregnancy driving gradual shifts in breast volume and profile. Size fluctuations can also happen, however, on much shorter time scales, with breasts growing as much as a full cup size in the week before menstruation. Physical arousal can also bring on a surprising amount of breast swelling, with some reports claiming that breast volume can increase by as much as 25 percent in the heat of the moment.
Like the breasts themselves, nipples can also vary widely in size, shape, and style. There are several types of nipples that have been identified, including “normal” protruding nipples, “flat” nipples that only perk up when stimulated, and “inverted” nipples (think “inny” belly buttons). In some cases, the areola can also be extra full, producing a “puffy” nipple that stands out from the rest of the breast tissue.
Most relevant to their actual function, breasts make what some have called the “perfect” baby food. Breast milk, which is released from the glandular tissue of a woman’s breasts when their newborn babies are suckling, contains everything from antibodies to zinc. Almost miraculously, it provides absolutely everything a human infant needs to grow and develop.