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Breast health

St Mary’s’ Dr Nicola Brown has been working in collaboration with the Research Group in Breast Health at the University of Portsmouth to investigate breast biomechanics and breast health. Founded in 2006, the group is responsible for over half of the scientific publications in this area and has commercial collaborations with many of the major lingerie, sports bra and sporting apparel manufacturers around the world.

Projects in which Dr Brown has been involved include investigating the relationship between breast size and body composition, identifying how breast pain affects the working and personal lives of the female population in the UK, and exploring breast support issues and breast pain experienced by female marathon runners.

Dr Brown’s large-scale study of 1,285 female marathon participants concluded that a third of women experience breast pain; a proportion that rose with increasing cup size: half of those with a cup size of F or larger experienced pain, compared with one in four of those with an A size cup.

Worryingly, the study showed that 44% of respondents hadn’t done anything to relieve their symptoms, suggesting that women may accept pain as part of exercise. Additionally, although sports bra use was high, 75% of marathon runners reported experiencing bra fit issues, highlighting the need for improvement in sports bra design and manufacture.

What’s Next?

Dr Brown continues to work with the team at the University of Portsmouth as well as industry partners, and is planning further research bids around exercise and breast support, and measurement systems of breast characteristics.

With further research and investigation, Dr Brown and the Research Group hope to improve women’s quality of life by investigating breast health from a biomechanical, physiological and clinical perspective, with the aim of broadening understanding, informing breast health product development and raising awareness of this important aspect of women’s health.

Did You Know?

  • Poorly fitting bras can lead to breast pain, irreversible sag, embarrassment and diminished performance. Despite this, 70% of women may be wearing the wrong size bra.
  • Over 50% of females experience some form of breast pain. Cyclic breast pain can be severe enough to affect women’s work, sleep and exercise patterns.
  • Exercise related and cyclic breast pain has been reported in up to 72% of exercising females and may discourage them from exercising.