It's only fair to share…

Recently I was interviewed by current affairs program Today Tonight on the issues surrounding large breasts. The natural reaction to this is for people to giggle or think, “ I would like that problem”. There are some serious issues around this topic particularly when you look at why average breast size is increasing

In Australia the average bra size has gone from 10B in 1960 to 12B ten years ago and now 14C. In the UK the average size is 36C although it is estimated by some fitting experts that 60% of women wearing a C cup actually need a D or larger. In the UK a company has released an L cup size and in Australia we are up to K.

There are three matters to consider. Firstly what are the problems, secondly what can be done to help? Thirdly, is why is this happening? The last one is the most interesting and concerning.

The main problem is neck and upper back pain brought about by the weight of the front of the body needing to be supported.   Trying to stand up straight puts strain on the neck back and shoulder muscles. In the long term it can contribute to earlier onset of arthritis in the neck.  Exercise such as jogging and involvement in other sports can be difficult contributing to weight gain.

Definitive treatment is breast reduction surgery and there is increasing demand for this. In the short term wearing a proper fitting bra is vital. To keep fit, water based exercise like aqua-aerobics or swimming enable women to exercise but not strain the neck as the weight of the breasts are supported.

In preparing for the interview I looked into why breasts are getting larger. One contributor is obesity. As fat is deposited in the body some will be in the breast. Overall people are getting bigger due to better nutrition.

The interesting factor is the exposure to oestrogens. This is the first generation to be exposed to the contraceptive pill and hormone replacement. Oestrogens get into the water supply via treated sewerage. In fact scientists have noted the “feminization” of fish. In addition girls are going into puberty earlier. A smaller number of pregnancies and less time doing breast-feeding all adds to the body’s exposure to oestrogen.

We are also exposed to oestrogens through the food chain. Poultry and cattle are fed hormones to boost their growth and much milk comes from pregnant cows.

The other factor is xeno-oestrogens in the environment. The main one being bisphenol A (BPA) which is found in many plastics. This compound has found its way into baby bottles the lining of water pipes, the lining of metal cans and a host of plastics with the numbers 3 and 7.

BPA is not a hormone but binds to oestrogen receptors in the body hence mimicking the effects of oestrogen. It is not lethal and hence many governments declare it “safe”. This misses the point. Something does not have to be toxic to be harmful. In the USA some 95% of adults and 93% of children have traces of BPA in their urine. It has been detected in the cord blood of newborn babies.

This can hardly be a good thing.

The European Union is banning BPA from baby bottles and it has been similarly banned in some states in the USA.

Increasing breast size is a sign that we are collectively exposed to more oestrogen than we need.

Here is my view. Do not wait for governments to act. Minimize your exposure to BPA. Do not microwave in plastic containers.  Be aware of and look for BPA free plastic products. As is often the case business is way ahead of governments. People want BPA free products and smart companies are responding.

Eat hormone free chicken and beef. Once again this is much more widely available due to the fact that people want it. Some restaurants even advertise that they source hormone free produce. Most supermarkets carry hormone free produce these days as of course do smaller shops.

Take care with what you allow into your body