Some time ago I picked up a bra at the op-shop for $1. What a steal, hey?! One buck for a bra that would have cost me at least $50 new. It was unfortunate the tag had been cut out and I couldn't tell the size, but it looked about right, and it was in such good nick and... well, you can't really go wrong for a dollar can you? And when I got home and tried it on it almost fit if I ignored that it was a little tight. It looked fine under all my bulky winter clothes which hid any give away bulges, so I wore it and rejoiced at my spend thrift purchase.
I can't even remember where I first read about it, but the library has a good book called Breasts: A natural and unnatural history by Florence Williams. The book begins with a couple of chapters on the evolutionary history of breasts, and (even if you're not into evolution) they provide a fascinating conversation around the main purpose of breasts - sex objects designed to attract a suitable mate to ensure the continuation of the human race, or lactation, which also ensures the continuation of the human race, albeit in completely different fashion?
Williams leans towards lactation holding the greater significance, but there's no denying the sexual power of breasts, especially in our sex saturated society. Enhancing their sex appeal with implants is consequently big business. Williams outlines the history of boob jobs from the first fumbling attempts using injected paraffin (unfortunately the paraffin melted in the sun and translocated to different parts of the body where it led to hard lumps and infections) to the silicone and saline of today (which may also lead to hard lumps and infections). It isn't a pretty story, but so convinced were some doctors that breast enlargements were necessary, they even created a new disorder. Micromastia. If small breasts have a diagnosis, you must need breast implants mustn't you?
The book goes on to explore changes in the breast during puberty. Girl's are developing bigger breasts a full year earlier than the average age when I was a teenager - which isn't that long ago for such significant changes to have taken place. The jury is out on why this is occurring, but it could be to do with the artificial (chemical) hormones swimming around us these days.
Those nasty toxic chemicals are believed to have other effects too, like increasing rates of breast cancer. And since we're having kids older on average, or not at all, our breasts are at increased risk of being affected by the chemicals stored in breast fat tissue.
When it all boils down, there are so many factors at play in the cause of breast cancer (genetic factors cause only around 10% of breast cancer) that scientists can't give any definitive answers on how to reduce risk. Breasts seem to be very sensitive to environmental toxins (they store the toxins in their fat), and since we're living longer and getting breasts earlier, the toxins sit in our breasts for ages and so the risk of developing breast cancer is increasing and increasing. I'm not sure if that is depressing or reassuring. Maybe both? The longer I live the more at risk I am, but there's not a lot I can do about it so stop worrying?
There's a whole lots more in the book, and all of it was fascinating, informative and entertaining - well worth a read.
Bras did get a mention in passing, since there have been suggestions that ill fitting, too tight, underwired bras may increase the risk of breast cancer. From memory, there wasn't any research evidence to back this up. But just in case, today I went and bought myself two new, well fitting bras. Actually, I'm not sure if reading 'Breasts' was my main motivation. The arrival of warmer weather and the consequent uncovering of previously hidden bulges may have tipped me over the edge. Whatever the cause, I looked at myself today and could not bear to wear that one dollar bra another moment. Judy fitted me out at Judy's Body Fashion, and either she has a fantastic manner or I've suddenly outgrown my self consciousness and am not embarrassed to be fitted. Or both. I walked out $119 poorer but with two great looking and well fitting bras. If there is any truth in the possibility of ill fitting bras increasing breast cancer risks - I've just defended myself against that one!
Now to get rid of all the furniture laced with flame-retardant. Good luck with that!