breasts: everything you ever wanted to know...

THE HUMAN CONDITION ... but were too afraid to ask. In Europe, women love and care for their breasts. In Britain we take them for granted. Here, ordinary women talk about their bosoms, while our A-Z guide has all the advice your mother never gave you

ADOLESCENCE Suddenly you start sprouting budding breasts, the boys won't let you in their gang any more and running for the bus hurts. In this country, young women are rarely taught to love and care for their breasts, which may explain why breasts are held in far higher regard - by their owners - in countries like France and Italy. Some things your mother should have told you: if you wear a bra, make sure it is fitted properly (seven out of 10 women wear the wrong size); swimming and exercising the pectoralis group of muscles does nothing but good; massaging your breasts daily with any cream keeps them feeling good and helps you get to know your breasts (a potential life-saver - 80 per cent of lumps are found through self-examination).

BREAST CANCER kills 300 women in the UK every week. It is the leading cause of death in women in the 35-49 age group. The mortality rate has not improved in the last 30 years and cases rose by 12.8 per cent between 1979 and 1990. An estimated one in 12 women in this country will develop the disease; 200 men are also diagnosed every year. Examine your breasts regularly; if you notice any changes, go to your GP. BREAKTHROUGH, set up in 1989, aims to raise pounds 15m to establish a Breast Cancer Research Centre. This would be the first of its kind in the UK and would bring together scientists with the sole aim of finding a cure for this disease (for information, call: 0171 405 5111).

COSMETIC SURGERY If you are considering going under the knife, your first stop should be your GP. He will advise on a reputable surgeon who has a practice in the NHS and is up to date on all the debates on implants and the risks involved. If your GP is not sympathetic then try the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (0171 405 2234), to be on their lists a surgeon has to have been a consultant in the NHS for at least two years.

DIETING Crash dieting can have drastic effects on breasts, leaving them sagging and stretch-marked. It is impossible to spot reduce, so dieting will make you lose weight all over, not just off your breasts (equally, over eating will not give you huge ones, just make you fat). Young girls can also diet trying to stop themselves developing. "At 12, I hated my breasts and everything they represented - adulthood, womanhood and men finding me attractive. For six years, I starved myself to keep my boyish figure. When I started eating, my breasts started growing - and growing. I hated them for five years, but now I love them and have the confidence to deal with the attention they attract," says one ex-anorexic, now the proud owner of a D-cup.

ESSENTIAL READING Patient No More - The Politics of Breast Cancer, by Sharon Batt (Scarlet Press, pounds 10.99) is a prolifically researched and empowering book. One of many interesting claims is that some US physicians refer patients to mammography clinics simply because they have a financial interest in the clinic. Could this happen here? "There is a problem relating to the setting up of mammography clinics based on commercial interests," says Dr Trevor Powles, Head of Breast Unit at the Royal Marsden. "There is no doubt that much money can be made cashing in on the fears of healthy women, which is counter-productive to the aims of early diagnosis, risk assessment, prevention and effective multi-disciplinary treatment in a specialist breast clinic."

FEEDING Women breastfeed for an average of six weeks, and breastfeeding is on the increase (64 per cent of mothers in England and Wales now breastfeed, compared to 51 per cent in 1975). FREDERICO FELLINI was the man responsible for Amarcord, the 1973 film starring a woman with breasts the size of San Francisco. It made a vivid impression on schoolboys, now thirty-somethings, who still remember the posters they ogled on the way to school.

GEORGIAN painters didn't know what nipples looked like (maybe they had sex with their clothes on). Nudes of the period don't appear to have areolae, the dark area surrounding the nipple.

HYDROMASSAGE is massage using water. Clarins manufacture the Model Bust (see product box) which makes hydromassage of the breasts easier. For a cheaper alternative, use the shower to spray them with cold water (for 30-60 seconds). It is said to help tighten the skin and is especially relieving when your breasts are pre-menstrual and feel as if they are full of lead pellets.

INVERTED NIPPLES can be corrected with the Nipplette (from chemists). They work by gentle suction.

JAPAN has the lowest incidence of breast cancer - thought to have something to do with their diet, which is high in Vitamin D (present in oily fish). Britain has one of the highest.

KENTON, JUNE: responsible for getting women into the correct sized bras. Her shop, Rigby and Peller, stocks 91 sizes, from 30AA to 48H. June recommends: an annual fitting, different bras for different activities, changing your bra every day, and using a laundry bag if washing underwired bras by machine. Most heard comment after a woman is fitted with the correct bra: "You've changed my life." Rigby and Peller, 2 Hans Road, London SW3, tel: 0171 589 9293.

LOVE During stimulation of the nipple (either sexually or during lactation) the hormone oxytocin is released from the pituitary gland. This causes uterine activity. After having a baby this helps the uterus get back into shape; during sex this makes you feel nice. Not all men are breast men - but a great many are. "He was so obsessed with my tits he hardly looked at me during sex," moaned one interviewee. "In the end I felt like sticking pictures of me on my breasts with arrows pointing towards my face saying 'Hello, remember me'."

MAIL ORDER If you have breasts that demand a 30H bra or are anything from a C to an H then Bust Stop is for you. They round up the best styles (normal bras, maternity, backless, front-fastening, sexy, supportive and basques) from the major companies in a catalogue. Staff at end of the phone are also extremely helpful. Tel: 0181 943 9733.

NIPPIKINI What we should be calling Chanel's new micro bikini - two nipple covers with the CC logo.

OESTROGEN the hormone naturally produced in the ovaries is thought to be linked to breast cancer. The anti-oestrogen drug, tamoxifen is prescribed to some breast cancer patients, in conjuction with surgery and chemo/ radiotherapy, to block the effects of oestrogen.

PENCIL TEST is supposed to measure how pert your breasts are: if your breast can hold a pencil placed under it, they have sagged. Much better is Dianne Brill's version. In the brilliant Boobs, Boys and High Heels, or How to Get Dressed in Just Under Six Hours (Vermilion, pounds 7.99). She suggests putting your Wonderbra on and seeing if a pencil will stay stuck in your cleavage. This is the only pencil test worth bothering with.

QUESTION put to Penthouse readers in a survey some 10 years back: "What type of breasts do you prefer, small, medium or large". The answer? "All of them."

REGULAR EXERCISE can work your pectorals (chest muscles) but no amount of exercise can work on the breasts themselves as they are made up of fat and tissue, no muscle. Good exercises for your pecs include swimming (breast and back stroke) and press-ups. If you have a large bust it is also worth working on the latissimus dorsi (the large muscles running under your shoulder blades), this will help stop you slouching and getting pains in the trapezius muscles (back of neck and upper shoulder) as these muscles tend to take most of the strain.

SIZE The average size of British breasts is 36B, though most women (70 per cent) are wearing the wrong size bra - usually the size is too big and the cup too small. "Women are frightened by letters beyond C," says June Kenton, "But a lot of women think they're a 36C, for example, when actually they are a 32D." If your hang-up is that yours are too small, acupuncture, according to the British School of Complementary Medicine, "can help to revitalise and increase the hormones which encourages the growth of the breasts". There are no guarantees but it's there if you want it. BSCM, 140 Harley Street, London W1, tel: 0171 224 2394.

"TITS" is the most commonly used of the British slang words for breasts. If you want to stand out from the crowd, try: melons, knockers, jugs, thrupenny bits, Bristols, Manchesters, Jerseys (as in City: titties), boobs, hooters, bazookas, bazoomas, top bollocks, love boats, headlights, cabman's rests (breasts), BSH (British Standard Handfuls), catheads (from the US, a type of biscuit), pillows, puppy dogs, horrorshow groodies (from A Clockwork Orange), love mounds, funbags, Brian McClair (fair pair), team (as in "great team, wonder if she needs a coach"). In France they call them les tetons, nenes, nichons, flotteurs, nibards, doudounes and blobloches. In Italy, le tette, menne, minocchi.

UPLIFT is only possible surgically (although exercise can help, see under R). Mastopexy uplifts sagging breasts by correcting the breast position without necessarily altering the size of the breast. Tricks women do to disguise saggy breasts while making love: stretching their arms up in cat-like fashion (no boys, it's not always because you're so good that your lover reaches for the heavens), hanging from things, blindfolding their lover.

VACCINES against breast cancer don't exist, but an injection containing sialyl-Tn is currently undergoing trials at Guy's Hospital in London. It is hoped to boost the body's response to tumours.

WEARING A BRA can kill you, according to Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer, the authors of Dressed to Kill - The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras (Avery, pounds 9.99). A bra, so the theory goes, suppresses the lymphatic system, causing toxins to accumulate in the breasts. But don't rush to burn your bras yet: in the opinion of Dr Trevor Powles, Head of the Breast Unit at the Royal Marsden: "The data relating to this was unreliable and although it made good publicity it contributes nothing to our understanding of the causes and prevention of breast cancer."

X-RATED The porn industry in this country alone is worth millions. Wouldn't it be nice if just some of the money raised by using breasts for titillation could go towards breast cancer research.

YOUTH Avoid topless sunbathing especially when young (50 per cent of sun damage is done before the age of 18). Youthful breasts like Pamela Anderson's are an ideal, but not a reality for most women. Her contract on Baywatch states that there must be 15 close-ups of her cleavage in every episode - men the land over invest in 50in TV screens.

ZANZARA the Italian for mosquito. Thus "hai un petto come due morsicature di zanzare" is the equivalent of "yours are like bee-stings."

I MUST, I MUST IMPROVE MY BUST

Clarins started selling bust-care products in France in the mid- Sixties. Few British companies specialise in this area: it is a slow moving market in the UK. Whether these creams work better than a simple body lotion is a matter of debate, but if it makes you feel good and you have the money, who can dispute the effects of the feel-good factor? Polly Sellar, Beauty Director at Vogue says: "French women have a different attitude towards their breasts, children watch their mothers splashing their breasts with cold water and go on to do the same. In this country most of us don't even wear proper bras. Gels and creams tighten on the surface, but they can't change what goes on underneath. Sun does most of the damage to skin, so protect against the sun, exercise to keep your pecs in shape and wear a good bra."

CLARINS, for morning: Bust Beauty Tonic , pounds 21, 50ml spray. Bust Beauty Gel, pounds 25, 50ml pump dispenser. For evening: Bust Beauty Lotion, pounds 21, 50ml pump dispenser. Their Model Bust is a plastic cup with hose that you attach to the cold water tap and blasts the breast with cold water, pounds 58.

LANCOME Energibuste creamy gel, pounds 24, 50ml pump dispenser.

ESTEE LAUDER Revelation Retexturing Complex for Hands and Chest pounds 42, 50ml.

THALGO'S Firming Cream for the Bust, pounds 27, 100ml, from selected salons, tel: 0171 512 0872.

SHISEIDO'S Essential Energy Body Care Bust Firming Lotion, pounds 27.50, 100ml. From selected department stores unless stated.

HELEN, 29, BUS DRIVER, 34A.

"I hate mine, they're too small, too droopy, the nipples are too big and there's a motorway down the middle. I'd like them to be bigger for when I have sex. I don't do anything to look after them, although I'd like to if I could be bothered." Jane, 36, Sex Therapist, 36B "I like my breasts, they're unobtrusive and comfortable. I don't do anything to look after them and think it's sad that women feel compelled to spend money on bust creams and the like."

MATHILDA (LEFT), 29, DOCTOR, 36D

"I love and hate my breasts. Love them because when I go to Christmas parties I can wear a push-up bra and have a magnificient cleavage. Hate them because I can't run for buses without knocking passers by out. I swim and do chest exercises and I moisturise my breasts with Vitamin E cream to keep them looking young. I know I should do more. Everyone wants nipples that point up to the ceiling, don't they?"

"I love my breasts, although I'd prefer them to be a little bigger, I look a bit boyish in T-shirts, but not so big that they got in the way. I don't do anything to look after them."

GEORGIA, 22, GRAPHIC DESIGNER, 32A

ROSIE (BELOW), 29, ARCHIVIST, 32D

"I'm very fond of my breasts, they have been quite voluptuous from an early age and that's always an advantage for a girl. Wouldn't mind if they were a bit higher, but I'm not paranoid about it. Do the pec deck at the gym and it works. I'm suspicious of all expensive 'miracle' cosmetics."

ANNA (RIGHT), 25, SECRETARY, 34C ("RISING TO 36C")

"I'm currently indifferent to my breasts, but I loathed them when they first appeared, and disliked them intensely when I was down on my whole body (this coincided with general poor physical self-image when I was bulimic). Now, I'm not nearly as aggressive about my body's 'failures'. I think that women who use bust creams have fallen for yet more corporate guff; women's anxieties about their looks seems an increasing source of revenue for drugs' companies."

"I lavish my breasts with attention - hydromassage with cold water once a day and apply gels, all by Clarins. I also work on my pecs with press ups, swimming, weights. My bust care is an extension of the general care I take of my body; it really doesn't take long, a few minutes out of 24 hours isn't much, and I think the results are worth it. Yes, people do think I am strange, but my mother is French and I grew up with a different attitude - I was using eye-cream at 15."

JOSETTE, 32, WRITER, 34DD

"I love my breasts most of the time, except when I'm premenstrual. They make me feel feminine and sexy and look great when displayed in a decollete evening outfit. I started looking after them about five years ago, I gradually became aware of products on the market and now I splash them with cold water in the morning and occasionally use Clarins bust tonic or gel. I also exercise. I do notice a difference using the creams, the skin feels firmer for a while, but it isn't permanent. If they sagged I would have them lifted slightly."

LILY, 29, PA, 38D

"I have a healthy indifference to my breasts, although I'd hate it if they sagged. I don't really do anything to look after breasts apart from exercising my pecs to keep them afloat. I only know one person who uses creams and stuff like that, and I respect and admire them. I'd consider surgery if they got saggy after childbirth, but never silicone."

SUSAN, 29, SOLICITOR, 32C

JESSICA (LEFT), 22, FLORIST, 34B

"I love my breasts. I used not to have any but then they grew and now I love them - I like their shape. I don't do anything to look after them. I'd consider special bust creams in a few years and would use them if I were pregnant."

Arts and Entertainment
arts + entsWith one of the best comic roles around, it's no wonder she rarely bothers with films
News
people
News
i100
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
ebookAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
News
i100
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
News
i100
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

    Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

    (Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

    Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

    £55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

    £60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Day In a Page

    Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

    Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

    In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
    Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

    How has your club fared in summer sales?

    Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
    Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

    'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

    Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
    The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

    The best swim shorts for men

    Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup