Tools for the Toolbox: Boobquake Edition!

So apparently some ignorant douchebag somewhere told the poor people who have to listen to him that immodest women are the cause of earthquakes.

Even though everyone knows that ignorant douchebags are really what cause earthquakes.

Actually, that might not be the case. Earthquakes would be far more common if it were.

But anyway, the blogosphere answers today with Boobquake. Today, women everywhere will be showing a little more cleavage than usual in an order to scientifically expose this theory for the misogynistic bullshit it is.

And, being a uniquely internet-based entity, here’s the only way I could think of to contribute.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…THE MAMMARY GLANDS!

Ah, mammary glands! Those fleshy sacks of exocrine tissue that drive men wild! (And some women! And not all men!)

So what are they?

Well. They’re the means by which a woman becomes a food source.

No. Not like that.

Come on. You know what I mean.

Wow. It took three tries.

::sigh::

Anyway.

Here’s the way breasts work.

Anatomy

A breast is composed of a collection of lobes, the functional unit of the mammary gland. Like many other structures in the human body, a lobe looks a lot like a tree:

This is what a lobe of the breast looks like under a microscope.

(Side note: They look a little like alveoli, the air sacs in the lung, don’t they?)

The round structures at the end are exocrine glands (glands that stay connected to the surface that they developed from; for practical purposes, that usually means that they secrete material through a duct). These particular glands secrete milk when a woman is lactating.

The glands of the lobe are connected to each other by a series of ducts, called lactiferous ducts. (lacto = milk, fer = to bear or to carry) You can see the ducts in the picture above; they’re those branch-like structures. As the lactiferous duct gets closer to the nipple, it dilates into a pouch called the lactiferous sinus. You can see it in this picture:

And then all of the lactiferous ducts have an open end at the nipple, where the secretions of the lobes can be expressed to the outside of the body.

And, you know, feed a baby.

These structures are suspended in fat and connective tissue.

Physiology

Breasts are cool and unique, because they aren’t fully formed at birth, and they go through a number of changes in response to reproductive cycles.

Both men and women have a duct system in their breasts. During puberty, a woman’s breasts begin to form lobules at the end of their terminal ducts. Her breasts are very responsive to changes in her internal hormonal environment, particularly the influence of estrogen and progesterone during her menstrual cycle.

These pictures show the Tanner stages of breast development. They can be used to determine a girl's progression through puberty, as well as help diagnose a number of different hormonal disturbances.

A man’s breasts will not develop in the same way, unless he has a hormonal disturbance which causes his breasts to grow. This is called gynecomastia. Some causes of gynecomastia include liver cirrhosis, drug use, steroids, and testicular tumors.

Bob from Fight Club suffered from gynecomastia.

Functional role

If a woman becomes pregnant, her breasts will respond to that hormonal environment as well; they will undergo even more changes to prepare for the eventual feeding of her baby. When the baby is born, the breasts produce a substance called colostrum, which is high in protein and immunoglobulins. After about a week, the colostrum changes to milk, which has a higher fat and calorie content.

In addition to providing the perfect food balance for the baby, breastmilk is also very important to the development of the baby’s immune system. Breastmilk contains IgA, a protective immunoglobulin that is found in the secretions of the body, as well as a number of other components that help support the baby’s own developing immune system.

And all of this happens without anyone having to think about it too much (in the absence of medical problems, of course). All mom and baby have to do is bond with each other, and let the breasts do all the work!

Aren’t breasts awesome?

In conclusion

These fabulous structures are what separate mammals from the rest of the animal kingdoms. They’re cool, they’re important, and they will probably be a little more visible today than usual.

So hooray for breasts! Hooray for empowered women! And hooray for the fact that I live in a society that allows women to show or not show their breasts AS THEY CHOOSE FOR THEMSELVES!

I don’t know about you, but that sure rocks my world!

Happy Boobquake, everyone!

References:

Robbins and Cotran. Pathologic Basis of Disease. 7th edition. Elsevier, 2005

Junqueira, Luis Carlos; Carneiro, Jose. Basic Histology: text and atlas. 11th edition. McGraw-Hill, 2005.

Pictures:

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If you use this as if it were real medical information, you will cause an earthquake. So just don’t.

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Published in: on April 26, 2010 at 10:20 am  Comments (5)  
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