British women are among the most insecure about their breast size in the WORLD and are at risk of breast cancer because they are less likely to check for lumps, study finds
- Scientists surveyed more than 18,000 women in 40 countries
- In the UK, three quarters of women were unhappy with their breasts
- In Columbia, more than half of women were content with their chest size
- Dissatisfied women are less likely to check their breasts for cancerous lumps
- Lead researcher said this makes low body image a serious public health concern
British women are among the most insecure about their breast size, putting them at greater risk of cancer because they avoid checking for lumps, a study has found.
Scientists surveyed more than 18,000 women in 40 countries in the largest ever study examining body image.
They found that in the UK, three quarters of women were unhappy with their breasts, either wanting larger or smaller breasts than their own.
Even more dissatisfied were women in Japan and China, where a staggering 90 per cent of women wanted to change their breasts.
This compares to Columbia, which ranked number one with more than half (57 per cent) of women content with their chest size.
Women who were dissatisfied with their breast size breast size admitted they were less likely to check them for cancerous lumps.
They may not notice unusual changes because they prefer not to look at them in the mirror or feel them due to shame, research suggests.
Lead researcher Professor Viren Swami said it was a ‘serious public health concern’ that the majority of women across the world appear to be dissatisfied with their breasts.
British women are among the most insecure about their breast size. They rank 9th out of the top 10, with Japan, China, and Egypt the most dissatisfied
Figures show that more than 50,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in Britain. In the US, it is in the region of 250,000.
It is estimated one in eight women will develop the disease at some point in their lives – making it the most common form of cancer among females.
Experts recommend women check their breasts regularly for any unusual changes so the disease can be spotted early, increasing the success of treatment.
The NHS also encourages women to learn what their breasts look and feel like so an abnormal changes can be spotted early and examined by a doctor.
Professor Swami added: ‘Breast cancer is the leading cause of female cancer-related deaths worldwide and poor survival rates are associated with poorer breast awareness.
‘Breast size dissatisfaction may result in avoidance behaviours that reduce breast awareness, particularly if a woman’s breasts trigger feelings of anxiety, shame, or embarrassment.’
The new survey of 18, 541 women, aged between 19 and 94 years old, was conducted to look at the differences in breast satisfaction between nations.
The scientists asked women questions about their satisfaction with their breasts and body generally, as well their age.
They also asked them how often women check their breasts for changes such as lumps and bumps.
Overall, they found that just 29 per cent of women from the 40 countries, who were an average age of 34, were happy with their breasts, while 48 per cent wanted bigger boobs. Some 23 per cent of women wanted smaller boobs.
THE 10 COUNTRIES WHERE WOMEN ARE THE LEAST SATISFIED WITH THEIR BREASTS
1. Japan – 10 per cent satisfied with their current size
2. China – 13 per cent
3. Egypt – 13 per cent
4. UAE – 20 per cent
5. Pakistan – 21 per cent
6. Malaysia – 22 per cent
7. Thailand – 23 per cent
8. Lebanon – 24 per cent
9. UK – 25 per cent
10. USA – 25 per cent
THE 10 COUNTRIES WHERE WOMEN ARE THE MOST SATISFIED WITH THEIR BREASTS
1. Colombia – 57 per cent are satisfied with their current size
2. Paraguay – 51 per cent
3. Ghana – 52 per cent
4. Spain – 45 per cent
5. Norway – 44 per cent
6. Netherlands – 40 per cent
7. Serbia – 36 per cent
8. Israel – 36 per cent
9. Costa Rica – 36 per cent
10. Philippines – 34 per cent
Less than a third of women are happy with the size of their breasts and almost half want a larger chest, researchers have found (stock image)
In Britain, 75 per cent of women were unhappy with their breast size. Fifty-six per cent want larger breasts, while 19 per cent want smaller breasts.
Levels of dissatisfaction are far lower in the US, with 43 per cent of women wanting bigger breasts and 32 per cent wanting smaller ones.
Women in Japan feel the highest levels of dissatisfaction, with 70 per cent wanting larger breasts and 20 per cent wanting smaller ones.
OLDER WOMEN ARE HAPPIER WITH THEIR BREASTS
A final key finding of the report was that breast size dissatisfaction decreases as women get older.
This may mean they check their breast more often. This was a positive finding considering the older a woman is, the more likely she is to get breast cancer.
Dr Swami and his colleagues speculated that this may be down to older women feeling ‘less pressure’ to obtain their ideal breast size.
Women who choose to become mothers and who breastfeed their children may be encouraged to focus on the functional properties of their breasts, while younger women may be more focused on how their breasts look.
The authors also found that despite the historical differences between countries for ideal breast size, the disparities had narrowed to the point that the ‘objectification’ of ‘medium-to-large’ breasts is now a ‘global phenomenon’.
They were followed closely by women in China, as well those from Egypt and Brazil.
The most satisfied were women in Colombia. A third of women want larger breasts, while 11 per cent want bigger breasts.
Analysing the results from further surveys, the researchers found links between certain personality traits neuroticism and conscientiousness with breast dissatisfaction.
Contrary to what they expected, exposure to Western media had a positive impact on body image.
The findings show a direct link between breast size dissatisfaction and poorer awareness about checking them for lumps or changes such as dimpling. It affected those who felt their breasts were small more.
Dr Swami and his colleagues pointed to previous research which suggested that women may not be checking their breasts to avoid focusing on the site of their dissatisfaction.
They may also be trying to avoid or negative emotions such as shame and embarrassment which they feel when they look at their breasts.
In fact, the study showed women who are unhappy with their chest have lower self-esteem.
They were also more likely to be down about their overall appearance and weight, and have poorer psychological wellbeing.
Dr Swami added: ‘Our findings are important because they indicate that the majority of women worldwide may be dissatisfied with the size of their breasts.
‘This is a serious public health concern because it has significant implications for the physical and psychological well-being of women.’
Dr Swami and his colleagues also found that women who are unhappy with their chest are also more likely to be down about their overall weight and appearance.
The findings build on research from Dr Swami in 2018 which focused on British women only.
Some 31 per cent of UK women said they wanted smaller breasts, while 44 per cent said they would prefer them if they were larger.
But a third of women said they rarely, if ever, checked their breasts for cancer, despite recommendations from the NHS.
More than half of women in the study said they would visit their doctor immediately if they detected a change in their breasts during an examination.
But one in ten revealed they would delay seeing their GP for as long as possible – or completely avoid booking an appointment.
THE 12 SIGNS OF BREAST CANCER THAT WOMEN MUST KNOW
Thick mass: A sudden thickening of the breast tissue can be a sign of a serious underlying condition such as lobular or inflammatory breast cancer
Indentation: Some people notice a dip, or dent, in the breast. This can be because the cancer is tethered to the breast tissue and so pulls it inwards
Skin erosion: In rare cases cancer that is growing under the skin can break through and create a wound
Heat or redness: If the breast feels warm to touch or there’s redness one-third of the breast, it can be a sign of inflammatory breast cancer
New fluid: Spontaneous nipple discharge on one side, which may be blood stained, brown or clear, might mean there is something in the breast that is causing irritation
Dimpling: Dimpled skin is a common sign of inflammatory breast cancer
Bump: A localised swelling, bulge or bump on the breast should always be investigated
Growing vein: Changes such as dilated veins can be a sign that cancer is blocking a blood vessel
Retracted nipple: Developing an inverted nipple – i.e. not being born with one – which can’t be drawn out, may suggest a lump behind the nipple is pulling it in.
New shape or size: Any change in shape or size not associated with the menstrual cycle should be investigated
Orange peel skin: Skin that has ridges or appears pitted, like the skin of an orange, can be caused by a build up of fluid in the breast
Invisible lump: Even there are many other symptoms, it’s crucial to always check your breasts for lumps. A cancerous lump often feels hard and immovable like a lemon seed
I hated being the blonde with the big boobs, says Ulrika Jonsson
Ulrika Jonsson has confessed she has always hated her breasts after being ‘sexualised as a blonde with big boobs’.
Ulrika Jonsson (pictured in 2003) says she has always hated her breasts
The TV star, 52, who had breast reduction surgery from 34L in 2009, said she fought against stereotypes. She even wore high-necked tops in the hope it would deter people from staring at her.
The Swedish mother-of-four told ITV’s Lorraine show: ‘It was not helped by being blonde as well – blonde and big boobs. And I was Swedish. All those things indicate a sort of sexual something.’
She added: ‘I was a late developer and when my breasts came they were quite big and they got in the way. I didn’t know what to do with them.
‘I was messing around with cars and things, I didn’t play with dolls and all that stuff. Then suddenly these things arrive and then as you get older they arrive in the room two minutes before you do.’
Miss Jonsson said that ‘psychologically, they made me feel fat’.
She recalled: ‘When I was pregnant I went up to a 36I cup, or something shocking. I always felt big and it changed all the choices I made clothes-wise. I would never wear low-cut things.
‘I felt very vulnerable in situations like that – so exposed.’
Miss Jonsson last month faced a backlash from women who had undergone mastectomies after she lamented the unhappiness large breasts had caused her.
She told Lorraine: ‘My argument was I am still allowed to hate my breasts [but] I totally empathise.’
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