Women unhappy with their breast size are 'less likely to check for cancer'

Women who are unhappy with their breasts are far less likely to check them for potentially dangerous lumps and changes, according to a new study by Angela Ruskin University.

The study – that looked at 18,000 women across 40 countries – also revealed that women in Britain are most likely to be unsatisfied with the size of their breasts. Which puts them at risk of not spotting cancer.

More than two-thirds of women in the study were unsatisfied with the size of their breasts. Just 29% said they were ‘happy’ while 48% want bigger boobs and 23% want them to be smaller.

Women in Britain had a greater desire on average for bigger boobs than any other nationality.

The study found that breast size dissatisfaction is associated with poorer psychological wellbeing – including lower levels of self-esteem and happiness.

Women who don’t like their boobs were also more likely to be dissatisfied with their weight and overall appearance.

‘Our findings are important because they indicate that the majority of women worldwide may be dissatisfied with the size of their breasts,’ says lead researcher Professor Viren Swami.

‘This is a serious public health concern because it has significant implications for the physical and psychological well-being of women.’

She adds that the findings are significant because breast cancer is the leading cause of female cancer-related deaths worldwide. Poor survival rates are associated with poorer breast awareness.

Signs of breast cancer to be aware of

Women are advised to start checking their breasts in their 20s.

A lump isn’t the only thing to watch out for, but if you don’t know what else you need to be aware of, here’s a very simple guide:

An inverted nipple

Some people are born with inverted nipples, but if yours suddenly starts to go inwards or changes shape in any way, it might be worth having checked out.

Redness, rashes or skin sores

We all get rashes from time to time but if you develop one anywhere on the boob or around the nipple that won’t go away, visit your GP.

Nipple discharge

If liquid comes out of your nipple without squeezing it, get it checked.


A dent of any size isn’t normal.

Swelling under the armpit or collarbone

Often you can get swelling under the armpit around your period but if it doesn’t go away when your period does, get it checked.

Change in skin texture

If the skin around your nipples become dimply or start to resemble orange peel, get it checked out.

Constant pain

Boobs can feel sore but they shouldn’t ache all the time.

A growing vein

Normally, you can’t see veins on your breasts so if one does become apparent and seems to be growing, head to your GP as it might be a sign of a tumour blocking a blood vessel.

A lump

It’s the most common sign but not the only one. If you can feel a lump on the inside (it doesn’t have to be visible), get it checked out.

Make sure you regularly feel your boobs for any lumps.

‘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,’ explains Prof Swami.

The study found that women who didn’t like their breasts conducted self-examinations on their breasts less frequently, and they also had less confidence in spotting changes.

‘Another key finding is that breast size dissatisfaction decreases with age,’ adds Prof Swami.

‘It is possible that older women experience less pressure to attain breast size ideals or that motherhood and breastfeeding encourages women to focus on the functional purposes of breasts rather than seeing them purely in aesthetic terms.’

If this study seems familiar to you, the university carried out a much smaller version last year – surveying 384 British women.

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