Florence Williams gets right to the bosom of her new book in its first line, reeling off names for the most beloved part of the female anatomy: 'Funbags. Boobsters. Chumawumbas. Dingle bobbers. Dairy pillows. Jellybonkers. Nim nums.'
So begins William's humorous, but deadly serious treatise, 'Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History.'
'We love breasts, yet we can't quite take them seriously,' she writes. 'We name them affectionately, but with a hint of insult. Breasts embarrass us. They're unpredictable. They're goofy. They can turn both babies and grown men into lunkheads.'
Breasts feed us, nurture us and excite us. But the most versatile organ in the female body can also kill us. They are made up of fat and estrogen receptors -- so they 'soak up pollution like a pair of soft sponges,' she writes.
One in eight women will have breast cancer in her lifetime.
Williams, an award-winning science writer, investigates why breasts are assaulted equally by men and a rising number of chemicals in the environment.
She follows breasts through their natural life cycle from puberty to changes during pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause. And she wonders about their psycho-sexual meaning, writing, 'big breasts get a lot of attention.'
Breasts are, indeed, bigger than ever, according to her research. The average-sized breast for an American woman is now a C cup and lingerie stories sell sizes from H to KK.
Or, more precisely, the average breast weighs just over a pound, but can double in pregnancy. The largest (enhanced) breast in the world is 21 pounds or a 38KKK, the equivalent of 2.6 gallons of liquid.
Breast Implants Are Most Popular Cosmetic Surgery
According to Williams' research, an estimated 289,000 women had enlarged their breasts in 2009, the most popular cosmetic surgery. In all, more than 5 million women in the US have implants.
She describes her visit to see a Texas plastic surgeon who performs 800 enlargements a year. She described the clinic as, 'Trump Plazas meets Jiffy Lube.'
'The plastic surgery industry is masterful at the hard sell,' said Williams. 'They have convinced women that it's just a simple cosmetic product, like buying a bottle of moisturizer.'
Though tempted to try the implants out, she realized, 'a lot of perfectly nice breasts ended up looking like water balloons on a skinny rib cage.'
In Western culture, breasts are 'sexualized to the point where have trouble taking them seriously,' she said. 'Young girls, rather than being in awe of evolutionary miracles, are ashamed of their breasts because they don't look like pornography.'
But her biggest concern is the vulnerability of breasts -- cancer rates have doubled since the 1940s, according to Williams.