Journalist Florence Williams has written a book about breasts, and her findings might surprise you – especially if you’re concerned about lowering your risk of breast cancer and other diseases.
Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History is a review of everything Williams discovered about these mysterious mounds of flesh we carry around on our chests. Her research took her around the globe in search of the most cutting edge science about breasts. While the book isn’t focused on breast illness, her conclusions regarding the current breast environment enlightened and informed me on how breasts "work."
Williams began her journey by putting her breasts to the test; she had her own breast milk analyzed. What did the lab results find? A laundry list of scary sounding chemical compounds and toxins. Turns out that contaminants found in the environment may also make their way into our bosoms. Not a big surprise, when you consider how chemicals have been found to affect us. But the flip side is that breast milk also contains mysterious and magical ingredients (including stem cells) that baby formula companies diligently study and attempt to replicate. There’s both good and bad news on the breast front.
What about the search for a cure for breast cancer? Williams looked at how one cluster of male breast cancers may be the key to discovering how this disease progresses in women. For several decades, the residents who lived in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, were exposed to the “most contaminated public drinking water supply ever discovered in the United States.” While male breast cancer is not the only deadly illness contracted by these Marines and their families, it may lead to discoveries in how pollutants impact breast biology.
What I found most surprising about Breasts is how ignorant we are: from breast development, breast milk chemistry, to the complexities of breast cancer. No one knows why breasts evolved as they did, arriving sooner than needed for nursing. They’re so much more than simple objects of sexual desire. Maybe breasts are a microcosm of the larger ecosystem. While we've been busy keepin' green or cleaning up the planet, we’ve neglected that which has sustained life for thousands of years. Maybe it’s time to put the in-vironment first. What pollutes one mother’s milk hurts all of Mother Nature.
What do you think? Can the study of breasts lead to a better environment?