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Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History
Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History
Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History
Audiobook9 hours

Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History

Written by Florence Williams

Narrated by Kate Reading

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars



About this audiobook

Did you know that breast milk contains substances similar to cannabis? Or that it's sold on the Internet for 262 times the price of oil? Feted and fetishized, the breast is an evolutionary masterpiece. But in the modern world, the breast is changing. Breasts are getting bigger, arriving earlier, and attracting newfangled chemicals. Increasingly, the odds are stacked against us in the struggle with breast cancer, even among men. What makes breasts so mercurial-and so vulnerable?

In this informative and highly entertaining account, intrepid science reporter Florence Williams sets out to uncover the latest scientific findings from the fields of anthropology, biology, and medicine. Her investigation follows the life cycle of the breast from puberty to pregnancy to menopause, taking her from a plastic surgeon's office where she learns about the importance of cup size in Texas to the laboratory where she discovers the presence of environmental toxins in her own breast milk. The result is a fascinating exploration of where breasts came from, where they have ended up, and what we can do to save them.
PublisherTantor Audio
Release dateMay 7, 2012
Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History

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Reviews for Breasts

Rating: 3.1475409836065573 out of 5 stars

61 ratings6 reviews

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  • Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
    EVERYTHING and then some (YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAWN) you've ever wanted and not wanted to know about female human mammary glands. "An engaging narrative about an incredible, life-giving organ and it's imperiled modern fate"

    The book is cataloged 612.664, right in there w/ medical information...... and personally, I couldn't quite figure out what what was so "engaging" about this book.

    I didn't know you could have your breast milk tested in Germany for fire-retardants & other chemicals and that American women test 10-100 times higher than European women. Also did you know, that breast milk contains a cannabis like substance in it? I didn't either.

    I had never heard (and hope to never again hear) breasts called: "Dingle Bobbers" (which I was sure was a term for male anatomy), Jellybonkers, or Chumbawumbas (Come on, Really?).

    But if you want the scoop on the health hazards that make breasts endangered, then by all means read this book.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    The cultural history of the breast with science added to the story. It tells the difference between humans and other mammals regarding breasts. It also explains the stages breast go through from birth to death as well illness such as cancer.I found this book fascinating. I liked how breasts were given a context in history but I found her going through the life stages of breasts so interesting that if I fell asleep I would relisten to the chapter. At times the narrative gets bogged down in scientific names and numbers especially on how outside chemicals affect breast milk and how it affects babies but it is information that is important. Going through cancer was also an interesting and important section for men also. I'm glad I listened to it. I plan on listening again. There is so much information within this book.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History by Florence Williams This book starts with a list of some of the words that are used to describe breasts.

    A good way to start a book? Well, it got my attention!A narrative from a woman who for various reasons gets her breast milk analyzed to see what's in it. The horror starts there.A lengthy report on all the toxins we know about and heaps that we don't, at least until now. There is nothing here to brighten your day but lots to make you think about improving the days you have left.A seriously good piece of work that bears thorough reading. Some little earth shattering moments, for example, to hear that the breast is the only organ in the human body that isn't formed up by the time we are born. Kind of obvious when you think about it. But when new drugs are introduced they have to be shown to cause no harm to every other maor organ except the breast.The bit that got me the most was to hear that until *very* recent times it was generally universally accepted that the breast evolved to please men. Universally accepted by men I should say. Remember Desmond Morris? well he was one major espouser of that line. Suave git.Even if you haven't got any breasts of your own, oh we all do! you will find lots here to re-assure, inflame, lull or shake you. There's more in the jiggly bits that you can shake a stick at...err.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    Informative and eye-opening.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    Breasts is a solid, well-researched non-fiction book focused on one (or two) organ(s). Perhaps that's too narrow a definition; Breasts is musings on the evolution of the uniquely human mammary glands (as they maintain their shapely form even without lactation), wanderings into the scary territory of implants, and even scarier territories of environmental factors, epidemiology, and the horrible things mothers can pass onto their babies via breast milk. Williams is a good writer; she maintains a good balance between data reporting, personal interactions with researchers and concerned citizens, and her personal life. I do worry about non-scientists, who will read this book (and many others), and feel confused, panicked, or angry at science. The fact is that most of science is a working model/hypothesis. When it comes to environmental effects on human health (such as pollutants or fried food or radiation from large buildings or your cell phone), a proper experiment is impossible to conduct. Humans are not living in controlled environments (a cage, for example) where the researcher can tweak one variable (say, the amount of chloride in the water) to see its effect on the health of the person. So whatever effects one sees in large populations and subpopulations have to be taken with a grain of salt. And on top of this, there is a lot of biology we do not understand (Smoking causes lung cancer, yet there are plenty of smokers, who never get lung cancer, and many who never smoke that do.) It's hard to really appreciate what a scientific result means unless someone actually conducts experiments. Like most jobs, it is much simpler said than done.
    Nevertheless, perhaps the most interesting stuff for me in the book was the actual experiment, where the author and her daughter went through pollutant detox. They changed the way they ate, the couches or seats they sat on, the bottles they drank from, etc. And their before and after tox screens were drastically different. It's pretty amazing. The problem is, of course, that it would be very hard to get to work without driving a car for most Americans. It would be hard to carry a glass bottle for water, with a non-plastic lid. It would be hard to do most of the things we do. (I am typing on my laptop right now, who knows absorbing what chemicals through my fingers from the plastic keyboard. I am sitting on a couch which probably was treated with flame retardants. My feet are resting on a chest, which also probably has some flame retardants on it. Let's not get into the packet of "cheese" I sprinkled over the macaroni I just ate... )
    I learned some interesting things about breasts and pollutants. I also decided that there is not much that I can do to change what will happen to my breasts, apart from trying to live a relatively healthy, natural life (I say, as the AC hums and my cell phone rings...)
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    This isn't a book for the prurient—sorry, but no R-rated pictures or salacious tales. This isn't a book for the hypochondriac—the subjects in question are sinkholes for every toxin we pump into our environment, with the expected consequences.It is, however, a good choice if you're curious about these under-studied (medically, I mean) and quite sophisticated organs. They are marvels of feedback, altering their output in response to the gender, hunger and even health of the infant on the other end. Scientists are quite divided on why humans even have them since other primates don't. They are changing substantially in modern times (and I don't mean under a cosmetic surgeon's care, though that phenomenon is discussed), a fact that causes some concern. Even men have more than an observer status in the book, as Ms. Williams discusses the rising incidences of breast cancer among them.It's probably not a book for everyone but, if you're interested, it's eminently readable, lightly humorous at times and worth your while.