The breeze is cooler, pumpkins are in season and there are boobs staring at you from billboards all over Malta and Gozo. It must be Breast Cancer Awareness month!
To honour the cause, we thought we’d share a few weird and wonderful facts about our tatas.
Starting with a few nipple facts:
1. Men have nipples because all embryos start out as females
The embryo’s male genes only kick into gear at around week 6 or 7, and testosterone is only produced at around week 9. By then, the nipples are already formed and aren’t going anywhere.
2. Having a third nipple is more common than you’d think
Around 5% of the world’s population is thought to have a third nipple somewhere on their body. They usually come with extra breast tissue, and can even lactate and feel sensitive during menstruation. Mark Wahlberg, Harry Styles, Tilda Swinton and Lily Allen are all members of the triple nipple club.
3. There are 4 types of nipples, all of which are completely normal
The most common type is the protruding nipple, which sticks out above the areola. The other types are flat nipples, which are pretty self-explanatory; puffy nipples, where the areola is raised above the breast; and inverted nipples, which look like dimples.
4. Pregnancy can make nipples darker
Darker nipples are a very common symptom of pregnancy. It’s all thanks to the change in hormones and levels of melanin produced by the body. The more melanin is produced, the darker more pigmented areas will become (like areolas, scars and freckles).
5. Breast milk sprays out of as many as 20 openings in the nipple
And we mean “sprays”! Some women experience leaking or dripping, while those with high flow can experience gravity-defying sprays when breasts are particularly full.
And moving on to a few facts about breasts themselves:
6. The largest natural breast size on record is 48V!
US-based Annie Hawkins-Turner holds the Guinness World Record for the largest natural bust. In case you were wondering, she was actually diagnosed with breast hypertrophy which caused them to grow so large. However, she has refused to have a breast reduction, stating: “I don’t want to mess with nature. As my breasts grew, the muscles in my back developed and supported them.”
7. Over 4 million new bras are produced every day
If you think that’s mind-boggling, check this out: bra-like garments have been around since the 7th Century BC!
8. Sagging boobs are a fact of life, but smoking makes it worse
The chemicals found in a cigarette break down the body’s elastin, causing breasts to sag over time. (You know, just in case you needed another reason to quit.)
9. Statistically, left boobs are bigger
Why? Nobody knows for sure. But there are a few theories as to why 65% of women report smaller right breasts.
One is immune hypersensitivity which is higher on the left side of the body, and affects the hormones that determine breast shape and size. Another is that, evolutionarily, women prefer to nurse on their left side to leave their right, usually dominant hand, free. This results in the left side producing more milk.
10. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Malta – but more than 80% survive it!
We’re ending on a more serious note, but an incredibly important one. Locally, breast cancer affects more than 300 women (and a handful of men) every year. The good news is that treatment is now more effective and gentle.
So while we’ve mentioned that it’s normal to have asymmetrical breasts, you should always be on the lookout for any sudden change in volume – especially if it’s paired with other symptoms like thickening, irritation, dimpling, discharge redness or flaky skin.
Early detection through self-checks and screening is key. This page shares all the information about the national screening service, and you can always speak to your GP about any symptoms or concerns.
Got questions about women’s health in pregnancy and beyond? Check out our Expert Advice section!