What can you really tell about a woman from her breast size? Or a man preferring said size for that matter? A lot, according to science. Below are five facts about breast size that both scientific and public communities have learned in recent decades as a result of better bra size education and awareness surrounding associated medical conditions and personality traits.
1. 34DD is the average American bra size
A 2013 survey from lingerie retailer Intimacy revealed the average bra size in America is 34DD — a leap from the average 34B it was 20 years earlier. There are several reasons as to why, including inflated cup sizes, plastic surgery, and the rising obesity rate. After all, breasts are largely made up of fatty tissue, meaning the more fat a person has, the bigger the breasts.
Fusion also points out bra sizing has simply gotten more accurate, thanks to Oprah. In 2005, she dedicated an entire show to helping women discover their true size and demanding professional bra fitters follow suite presumably after a 2004 study found 80 percent of all women were in the wrong size bra. Women who thought they were a B found out they were really a DD. The way to deduce your bra size is to subtract your band size from your bust measurement, so 37 inches (bust) — 34 inches (band) equals 3 inches or a 34C, Real Simple explained.
2. The Guinness World Record for largest natural breast size is 48V
Annie Hawkins, also known as Norma Stitz, wears a U.S.-size 52I bra, but based on her measurements — she has an 109.22-centimeter (43-inch) bust and 177.8cm band measurement — she should be wearing a 48V. Hawkins said she first started wearing "a regular grown-up woman’s bra" in the third grade and was honored to receive the title.
When a woman’s breast weight is over 3 percent of her body weight, it’s considered gigantomastia — a condition that occurs in one out of every 28,000 to 100,000 pregnancies, and can even affect males. One of the earliest recordings can be traced back to 1670, though more recently, aside from Hawkins, Kerisha Mark was in a 36 triple N bra. When Mark turned 40, she elected breast reduction surgery after her large breast size kept her from "living a normal life."
3. The many medical conditions associated with breast size
These are more obvious when considering too-large breast size. Mark had said her breasts "were like carrying around three basketballs at all times," which frequently caused her pain and prevented her from working out. Seventeen percent of women surveyed by the University of Portsmouth’s Research Group in Breast Health would agree; if they cited their breasts kept them from going to the gym, they added it was because they couldn’t find a proper sports bra or were just embarrassed by the way their breasts moved.
Extra-large breasts may also predict mental health disorders, as do asymmetrical and mildly uneven breasts. A 2014 study published in the journal Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery found when compared to normal breasts, teens with different-sized breasts scored lower on emotional well-being and self-esteem, even after researchers adjusted for differences in body weight. Researchers said this doesn’t so much as suggest younger women undergo a breast lift or augmentation, but rather a possible increase in early interventions for weight control and mental health counseling.
4. And the many associated personality traits
First, medium-size breasts may be ideal for women and men, Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Michael Roizen reported on their website YouBeauty.com. Additionally, Oz and Roizen cited women and men perceived smaller breasts as indicators of greater competence, ambition, intelligence, modesty, and morale. Separate science has associated smaller breasts with heavy coffee drinking (so, good thing it packs so many health perks). Wear a bra size bigger than a B-cup? You’re considered a big spender. Bigger breasts, on the other hand, have also been associated with a higher IQ and an increased likelihood to be nurturing, in addition to potential struggles with mental health.
Men's preference for a certain breast size may predict their personality traits, too. Psychologist Stuart Fischoff says men who want a submissive partner prefer small breasts, while other studies attribute this preference to financially stable men. More hungry men, sexist men, and men who are independent and not-so nurturing have been found to prefer larger breasts. And yet, men ready for fatherhood may favor large breasts, too, which is not surprising given larger breasts can "signal a woman’s capacity and ability to bear and nurture children." Evolutionary psychology professor Jason Young told MTV News different breast size preferences "evens out the playing field."
5. You can (minimally) enhance breast size
A study published in the journal BMC Medical Genetics found certain genes are associated with breast size, three of which co-relate to breast cancer. These findings suggest there may be biological pathways underlying normal breast growth and breast cancer. Beyond genes, there’s an idea that eating foods with estrogen-like chemicals, called phytoestrogens can lead to breast enhancement — but there's currently no research to support this claim (no matter how hard this Japanese company pitches its "F-cup cookie").
Instead, if any gains can be made and minimal ones at that, it may be possible through exercise (never mind the natural growth that occurs during pregnancy). Johns Hopkins Medicine reported breast growth occurs as a result of increases in the accumulation of fat in the connective tissue of the breast, due to elevations in estrogen secretion, so institutions like the American College of Sports Medicine suggest increasing pectoral size may cause breasts to appear slightly larger.