Why Boobs Matter (in Skepticism and Elsewhere)
There’s been a lot of talk about boobs lately so I thought today would be a good time to take a look at some of the myths that continue to circulate around breasts. Here are 5 common stories you’ll hear about breasts and the facts behind them:
1. Underwire Bras Cause Cancer.
I still periodically get this spam and I bet you do too! It appears to have started with a book called Dressed to Kill, written by two medical anthropologists, Soma Grismaijer and Sydney Ross Singer.
The book claimed that underwire bras compress the lymphatic system under the arms and breasts, supposedly causing a buildup of toxins. This has been widely refuted by several sources. The American Cancer Society says:
We do not know of any epidemiologic studies published in scientific journals that suggest bras directly contribute to breast cancer risk or that lymphatic compression by bras might cause breast cancer.
Read more after the fold!
2. Staring at boobs is good for men’s health.
This is a claim that is often attributed (wrongly) to the New England Journal of Medicine. In fact, this study was never published in any medical journal. According to Snopes:
The article referred to above was not printed in The New England Journal of Medicine or any other major medical journal. It is, in fact, a slight reworking of a piece that has run on at least two occasions in that celebrated tabloid Fountain of Truth, the Weekly World News (13 May 1997 and 21 March 2000) and has escaped into the wild.
Yep, the Weekly World News, that bastion of fine journalism… Sorry guys.
3. Silicone breast implants increase your risk for cancer and other disease.
The FDA has approved silicone gel-filled breast implants made by Allergan and Mentor.
The website does warn of several possible risks to breast implants, including the danger of rupture, a potential impact to a woman’s ability to breast feed, either by reducing or eliminating milk production and routine mammograms may be more difficult with breast implants. But no danger from the contents of the implants themselves, saline or silicone.
4. Your breast size determines how much breast milk you can produce.
Breast milk is determined by the milk glands in the breast; breast size is dependent on the amount of supporting fibrous and fatty issue in the breast. So women with larger breasts won’t necessarily produce more breast milk. Some women do have trouble producing milk or find it more painful or uncomfortable than others but that is not related to breast size.
As far as I can tell, the breast size/milk relationship is nothing more than another way to add to the insecurities that plague women with smaller breasts. You’re ‘less of a woman’ and ‘less of a mother.’ Ugh.
5. Parasites can live in unwashed underwear and cause larvae to grow in your breasts.
Oh dude. The images for this one on Snopes are hideous. I don’t recommend you look at them. Suffice it to say, they involved photoshopping a breast together with a lotus seed pod to make it seem like some sort of nasty parasite had infected a breast. There’s also a video floating about which actually does show doctors removing parasites from a woman’s breast (again, I don’t recommend watching it). This is a genuine video but is caused by the larvae of the Tumbu fly. According to a 2004 study:
Cutaneous myiasis of the breast due to infestation by the larva of Cordylobia anthropophaga is rare. To the best of our knowledge, only one case has been reported in the English literature.
I’ll wait for you to come back from screaming into your pillows. Sorry about that.
What else is out there?
I only touched on a few myths here. I could have done a whole section on just breastfeeding myths or breast cancer myths. Breasts are, no pun intended, a touchy subject and people can sometimes be embarrassed to discuss. This taboo means that it’s easier for bad information to get out there and stay in the public consciousness.
So, keep in mind, there are lots of reasons that we need to keep breasts in the forefront of our minds when it comes to skeptical discussions. Our boobs depend on it!
Masala Skeptic – the Myth-BUST-er! Get it? Get it? Huh? See what I did there? See?
Obvious faked photo. How could it affect only one breast? Everyone knows they are pairisites.
@Zapski and Skepotter:
Oh, cheeky ones! Your wit is always abreast the hottest topics on Skepchick.
Snopes doesn’t like hotlinking, so the link to the video doesn’t work.
I don’t recommend fixing it though. *shudder*
I’ve always been skeptical of the adage “anything over a mouthful is wasted”â€¦[ducks and runs]
And in other news: Boobquake makes Something Positive http://www.somethingpositive.net/sp04262010.shtml
I recommend hitting where it counts. Put your wallet where your boobs are, if you will.
You assume there’s only one mouth…
Wonderful article. However, your Skepchick cleavage has forced me to have lascivious thoughts. Cue east coast earthquake in 5, 4, 3…
Interesting about the (incredibly bizarre) one about bras causing cancer. WTF?
I does remind me of something that as far as I know is legit. My high school bio teacher talked about cell abnormalities being caused by external irritation. His example was that it’s common for women to get a bump on their skin on their back where their bra clasp rubs.
The lotus boob really IS horrible. A friend showed me that picture a while back and it’s been bothering me (off and on) since. (It’s also pretty obviously fake, but it’s still eeek).
If it rubs, you’re wearing the wrong bra.
Wearing an underwire bra prevents the need for plastic surgery (i.e. breast lift)– not that anyone actually needs one, but you know what I mean. Wearing one all the time, even sleeping in one, if you can stand it, keeps the ravages of gravity from de-perkifying the larger ones.
I know that because of anecdotal evidence from myself and two other women I heard talking about it on TV, and I’m choosing to be unskeptical about it, so there. ;p
Hahahahahahah, I knew that if I continued with my subtle actions and quiet work out of the lime-light. It would bring about the great day of boobs. I have succeded. I see your boobs. Now on too the next step.
Is there any reason why you didn’t illustrate this nice column about breasts with breasts, but with bras (or T-Shirts)?
As for example in :
I avoid breast myths by using hands on observation as my primary resource.
@jdmuys: Fuck, would it kill you to label that NSFW?
Thank you for making this nearly impossible to read at work…I’m sure one boob picture would have sufficed.
And by one boob picture, just be clear, I mean one picture of two boobs.
See, I disagree with #2. Looking at boobs make me happy. Being happy leads to taking care of myself. Taking care of myself leads to being healthier.
Conclusion. My health is linked to your boobs. ;-)
@Mark Hall: Thatâ€™s the same train of thought that stopped at my station.
@Bjornar: Love this comic! “Jehovah like.” :-)
“Hold on. He said Jehovah. Stone him! Oh, wait. I said it, too!”
Oh, and myth #2 is completely true. I’ve performed numerous experiments and sacrificed much of my time exploring this myth, and I feel better every time I “finish my study”, if you know what I mean. There…conclusive proof of the power of Boobies!!
Yay for BoobQuake! It’s for the children, you know.
@James Fox: @Garrison22: I think we should put together a grant proposal to further study this. I would be willing to bet that we could get some serious bank to scientifically study “Do boobs improve men’s overall health?”
A day without boobs is like a day without sunshine.
Tripods song Boobs has never been more appropriate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGBFGH5OqoI
In middle school, the gym teacher told us that wearing a coloured bra caused breast cancer. Of course, she also taught us that women had one more rib than did men…
@DominEditrix: Sounds like my high school science teachers.
@DominEditrix: Maybe she’s right. Ya ever count ’em? I’ve got…lessee, here…I think, five. But there might be more under the BBQ sauce.
Just wait until June, when I’ll launch “Ballcano, 2010!, to be followed by “Mid-Summer Taintnado”
Oh, oh! I got another one:
(also my code name when I was in ‘Nam)
You mention the plight of smaller-breasted women, and yet the post is riddled with what obviously is the ‘ideal’ breast size. I don’t want that to make me sad, but for the sake of honesty: it does a little…
@Some Canadian Skeptic: COTW!
Also, since no one else has done it, I will:
@Skept-artist: Sam?!?! HAHAAAHAHAAAAHAHAAAA!!!!!
@SJBG: Until recently, I definitely felt I got the short end of the boobiestick when compared to my younger so-well-endowed-that-it-should-be-illegal sister. It wasn’t until I tried a pair on that I realized they didn’t fit my body. I just looked…dumpy.
So now I just wear my “Who needs big tits…when you have an ass like this?” shirt and smile with mild sympathy at my sister’s larger than life everyday difficulties.
They’re all different sizes… they’re just… pushed together for max cleavacity.
And all of the photos are OUR boobs. We took them ourselves and submitted them to Maria (and the group) last night… and I’ve never been so glued to my email. But if you take issue with our lack of cup diversity, you need to complain to Rebecca. She’s the one who put together this… wonderful… group… of… boooooooobies *drool*
@Skept-artist: Nope, not Sam. Me, the apparently forgotten Skepchick! The third picture down is my boobs. :)
@Chelsea: Aw. You are not forgotten. I had to throw Sam in and I didn’t know whose they were, so it seemed like the thing to do.
@Elyse: Ah, I see now. But even pushed together, mine could *never* look like that…
@Ashley.Ele: Don’t worry, I’m usually of the same attitude. What I admittedly lack in tits I well make up for in ass, and whenever summer rolls around I’m very happy for all the cute little tops and dresses I can get away with that my better-endowed girlfriends feel they have to steer away from (except this one friend; she goes all out and I love her for it).
But *every*now*and*then* usually when stuff like this comes up and suddenly boobs are even more everywhere than they already are, it becomes clear that when most people think of “boobs” they’re actually thinking of cleavage, and I simply don’t have that to offer…
But I’d say 90% of the time I’m satisfied with my lovely ass and the likelihood that what boobage I do have will stay perky longer. :-)
@Ashley.Ele: My sister had a boob reduction a few years ago as did two of my cousins. More is not always better.
Boobage is a fine and glorious thing, but a lovely ass trumps sweater bumps any day of the week! As Gabriel is to boobs, thus am I to butts.
Boobs may cause earthquakes, but a well framed ass can stop time.
@SteveT: I like it all, myself. I love boobs, but I can’t say a nice pair of legs affects me any less.
I also can’t imagine dating/ not dating someone just because I like/ don’t like some part of her anatomy.
Then you have to blame Jen for not participating. She’s our token small boob girl. She wasn’t left out. She didn’t submit anything!
Jen hates small boobied women!
@SJBG: I have small boobies too. Used to have Ds when I was larger, but now I have droopy Bs, and I don’t really cleavage so much as en-flatten, even with a push up bra. >_<
@SJBG: I absolutely have to disagree with your statement that boobs = cleavage in the average mind. It certainly doesn’t in mine.
I think what we’re seeing here is a tendency to think cleavage shot when one needs a SFW-boob illustration, but a tight sweater over some not suitable for cleavage boobs would have worked just as well.
Look what you’ve done to Taiwan!
You MANIACS! You had to go and play with fire!!!
(Seriously, though, this is precisely what Rebecca said. Statistics and all. OR MAYBE GOD REALLY DOES HATE YOUR BOOBIES!)
@SJBG: I represent the small boob end of the spectrum. But you’re right that when people think boobs, they think cleavage – so much so that’s what I thought, too, and didn’t think there was really any point in submitting my picture. :/
If you want to know more about tumbu flies:
@Skept-artist, I would correct that list in the following way:
Chelsea (I wasn’t sure either)
But I kinda hope I didn’t get them all correct because that would make me look bad …
“Jen hates small boobied women!”
Jen has redeemed herself in her consequent post. Never mind.
@exarch: I’m not too worried about how I look, because for me, the boobs didn’t really aid in figuring out who anyone was (if I even did). It was actually all of the other clues (tattoos, clothing, mouths). The only exception is Elyse. Her boobs are all over Twitter :)
Wait. Did someone just say there was no point in Jen sending in a picture? That’s ridiculous. Jen should be constantly sending pictures.
@phlebas, Jen IS constantly sending me pictures of her boobs. Wait, you mean that’s just me? I had no idea …
@SteveT: Sing it, brotha!
Oh, and @Mark Hall: I’m afraid we may have to raise the $ for this ourselves, and unfortunately I’m pretty much broke, but I’d be willing to do some pro bono work. ;-)
Q: What does Elyse Anders bring to the table?
Probable response: Boobs. And she’s kind of mean.
@Elyse: Don’t forget, you also bring The Awesome ;)
Thank you, Maria, for debunking the stupid “big boobs = more milk” myth. I hear that so frequently as a fake evo-psych-ish excuse for why hetero men are supposed to prefer big boobs.
Non-lactating boobs all have about a couple teaspoons of milk-producing tissue. Everything else is just fatty connective tissue.
Those photos show some really really nice cleavages!
@Garrison22: Who wouldn’t want to give a grant whose application reads “Essentially, me and my mates want to sit around and ogle cleavage. We figured we’d alternate between Hooters and the strip clubs on 45.”
They might not cause cancer, but they aren’t the most comfortable bras. I admit my sis just got me onto wireless bras- though they they don’t look as nice as the wire ones.
@Amanda, something about lactating boobs which I wasn’t aware of for a long time (and which many other men probably also don’t know about):
While boobs may increase in size during pregnancy and during the time the newborn is being breast-fed, afterwards, they often end up actually being smaller than before the pregnancy.
At least, that’s what I’ve been told by the few women I’ve talked with about this who’ve had babies themselves.
It seems counter-intuitive.
Apropos of Boobs:
@Jen: Maybe we need a small boob pride post. ;-)
@exarch: I’ve heard that too. One of my friends growing up was one of three very well-endowed daughters, yet their mom was even flatter than me. Curious, one day I asked my friend what was up with that, and she responded: “She breast fed four kids*, what do you think?”
*there’s a son too
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