Under a photograph of a woman’s breasts in a bra, text read:
A pair of D-cup breasts weighs between 15 and 23 pounds — the equivalent of carrying around two small turkeys.
No source for the claim was included with the image, but the same phrasing appeared (again unsourced) in a 2005 Discover magazine article headlined “The Physics of Bras”:
One side effect of the obesity epidemic in America is rarely noted: Women’s chests are expanding nearly as fast as their bellies. Poor eating habits, as well as breast implants and the estrogens in birth-control pills, have led to an increase in the past 15 years of more than one bra size for the average American woman—from a 34B to a 36C. For many women, this has been a burdensome trend. A pair of D-cup breasts weighs between 15 and 23 pounds—the equivalent of carrying around two small turkeys. The larger the breasts, the more they move and the greater the discomfort. In one study, 56 percent of women suffered from breast pain when jogging.
The piece and possible origin of the claim were frustratingly free of any source or information pointing towards a credible origin. It merely made a very questionable statement — that breasts were individually and collectively quite heavy — and moved on to discuss the manner in which bras supposedly worked. For their part, bra manufacturers typically guess at the weight of breasts based on cup size, as all breasts are different, but the guessed weights are nowhere near the estimate featured in this meme:
Bra sizes 32A, 30B, 28C = about 0.5 pound per breast
Bra sizes 34A, 32B, 30C, 28D = about 0.6 pound per breast
Bra sizes 36A, 34B, 32C, 30D, 28E = about 0.7 pound per breast
Bra sizes 38A, 36B, 34C, 32D, 30E, 28F = about 0.9 pound per breast
Bra sizes 40A, 38B, 36C, 34D, 32E, 30F, 28G = about 1.2 pounds per breast
Bra sizes 42A, 40B, 38C, 36D, 34E, 32F, 30G, 28H = about 1.5 pounds per breast
Bra sizes 44A, 42B, 40C, 38D, 36E, 34F, 32G, 30H, 28I = about 1.7 pounds per breast
Bra sizes 44B, 42C, 40D, 38E, 36F, 34G, 32H, 30I, 28J = about 2 pounds per breast
One immediate issue with the claim is that it offers very little room for variance in the density of breast tissue. Some breasts are far more “dense” than others, presenting a known issue for matters such as mammography.
Furthermore, many women have silicone or saline breast implants, the density of which can differ greatly from organic breast tissue — or even from implant to implant. Once again, no mention of these very common differences is made in the 2005 article or the meme. Going by the measurement unit used for both saline and silicone implants (CCs), an on-the-larger-side 500cc implant weighs under a pound for silicone — saline is marginally heavier than silicone, but neither does it weigh more than two pounds:
Obviously the larger the size of the implants, the more they will weigh. Every 100cc of silicone implant weighs 0.23lbs. Every 100cc of saline implant weighs 0.21lbs. For example, a typical 300cc silicone implant weighs 0.69 pounds and a pair of them together weighs 1.38 pounds. 300cc saline implants weigh 0.63lb each or 1.26lbs for both of them. Essentially implants weigh about the same as an equal amount of breast tissue would weigh. There might be a slight weight variation from manufacturer to manufacturer, which is insignificant. The slight difference between the weight of similar size saline and silicone implants is negligible.
Additional plastic surgeons place the weight of 580cc implants (silicone) at around 600 grams or 1.2 pounds — not near the five to over ten pounds cited in the meme. Regarding the relationship of weight to cup size, retired plastic surgeon Dr. David Ross explains that this, too, varies:
A 500cc implant adds approximately 2.5 cup sizes to your present measurement
Rule of thumb is that for every 200cc added a patient will experience a one cup increase over her present cup size. Using this rough calculation a 500cc implant would add two and one half cup sizes to your measurements. In your case this size implant will enlarge you to between a C and D cup. I personally do not believe there is an appreciable difference between placing an implant subglandular versus submuscular. However, some would argue that a given implant appears smaller submuscularly.
So if a patient wears a standard-sizing B-cup bra and adds 500cc implants, that patient would likely be placed into a DD-cup bra. However, the heaviest implants would weigh under two pounds and not combine to weigh 15 to 23 lbs. together. Universally, plastic surgeons appear to concur that cup sizes are a poor measurement for breast size and weight overall.
If saline implants — since they are composed mainly of water — are the heaviest at under two pounds each, a comparison to organic tissue would likely shed light on the actual weight of breasts. According to plastic surgeon Dr. David Dellinger, water is far less dense than breast tissue:
The density of breast tissue, which is comprised of fat, water and other tissue elements, is less than that of water itself. So a pound of breast tissue weighs the same but is probably a little larger than a pound of water.
580cc is roughly about 1.25 lbs
Fat is less dense than muscle, and breast tissue is closer to fat than muscle in density. Surgeons routinely weigh in on patient questions about the relative weight of tissue and cup size, presenting calculations more in line with the known density of soft tissue:
One pound is 453.59 grams. A cup size is around 200 grams. Bra size is notoriously inaccurate
A pound is 454 grams which is about three cup sizes. That would make you about three cup sizes smaller.
One pound is about 450 grams. Dr. Paule Regnault, a plastic surgeon who has studied this matter in some detail, offers a general estimate for a 36″ chest – your breasts will diminish by one cup size for every 200 grams that are removed.
It is thus estimated that 450 grams will reduce your breasts by two cup sizes.
One pound is 2200 grams. That is quite a bit per breast and does not sound correct. Because breast tissue is composed of both fibrous and fatty tissue the volume of that one pound will vary depending on the composition of the breast tissue. It is impossible to predict cup size accurately with breast reduction. Your plastic surgeon should be able to show you pictures of breast reductions and how much was removed from each to give you some idea of what each amount looks like.
Yet another factor involves reference to a “DD cup” in the meme. Cup sizes are in no way fixed, and 2011 research into average breast volumes found:
The mean breast volume of the left and right breast was 642 and 643 ml, ranging from 125 (size 10A) to 1,900 ml (size 24DD). The average professionally fitted bra band size was 12 (range size 10‐24; Australian sizing) and cup size was DD (range A‐G). A range of breast volumes was found to correspond to the same bra size and the volume of any one cup size was not homogenous amongst different band sizes.
For reference, 643 ml is just under 22 ounces. Moreover, cup size is always relative to band size, and a 30DD has a smaller cup than a 40B.
The claim that DD breasts collectively weigh 15 to 23 pounds has been floating around since at least 2005, and no citation supported that information when it first appeared. By all reasonable calculations, a large saline breast implant (that is, larger than a DD-cup) weighs less than two pounds by itself; silicone is typically lighter. Given that a saline breast implant is denser than nearly all breast tissue, that under-two-pound implant is presumably heavier than organic tissue and an unaltered DD-cup breast. No calculation or permutation of those estimates would lead to a seven or eight pound individual breast, half of the lower end of that meme’s estimate.
By any estimate, DD breasts do not weigh “between 15 and 23 pounds.”