Whether breasts exist because of physical need or whether they were created for sexual selection is a question people have been debating for years. Florence Williams, author of Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History, believes that they're naturally selected organs but that men just became attracted to them, maybe as a secondary consequence.
The oldest known case of breast cancer (and cancer in general) comes from ancient Egypt. Text about surgery from around the year 3000 BC describes several cases of tumors or ulcers in the breast. “There is no treatment,” it says of the disease.
Described as one of the world's earliest professions, wet-nursing was around as early as 2000 BC. Women who could not, or did not want, to breastfeed enlisted the help of other ladies to do the job. It remained popular until the 19th century, when the feeding bottle was invented.
Rumor had it that the broad-rimmed Champagne glass was created from a mold of Marie Antoinette's breasts. Even though that was later discounted, her chest was surely a source of talk during the time period.
In 1913, a New York socialite named Mary Phelps Jacob wanted to wear an evening dress, but didn't like how it looked with a stiff corset. So she took two handkerchiefs and some ribbon and created the world's first-known bra. Just a year later, the US Patent Office granted her the first patent for a bra, which was called the "Backless Brassiere."
Big breasts haven't always been the rage. In the 1920s, bras were designed to flatten the chest so all body types — male and female — could look alike.
Starting in the 1950s, Bettie Page-like pinups began to take hold in pop culture. Along with actresses like Marilyn Monroe, they painted a new portrait of sex appeal that was largely centered around breasts.
Betty Ford underwent a mastectomy for breast cancer not too long after she became first lady in 1974. Having spoken out after the experience, she's been widely credited for raising awareness about the illness.
It was 1990, and Madonna was leading her Blond Ambition Tour with a cone-shaped bra that's since been engraved into pop culture history. With this display, and many others, she used her breasts as a way to get women to play a more aggressive role in owning their sexuality.
Dubbed "Nipplegate," Janet Jackson caused a firestorm after a wardrobe malfunction left her exposed on national television during the 2004 Super Bowl. Although we can laugh about it now, the country was not ready for that much, er, exposure at the time.