Q. Do breasts grow as women grow older, especially after menopause?
A. Many women do experience an increase in breast size with age, but medical experts say there are no clear and definitive answers to the questions whether and why, as little research has been done.
Many overlapping factors could contribute to a size increase, including changes in levels of hormones, a tendency to gain weight in all parts of the body, and water retention.
With the menopausal drop in estrogen, which affects all body tissues, the texture and composition of the breast tissues change. The resulting shrinkage of glandular tissue is implicated in a loss of elasticity and sagging, but not necessarily in an increase in size.
As for the prevalence of an increase, one study involved 1,130 postmenopausal women in a large cancer-screening program in the Netherlands. The study, published in 2004 in the journal Maturitas, found that 18.6 percent of the women reported having to buy a larger bra size than they did before menopause, while 1.7 percent reported needing a smaller size.
Weight gain, body measurements before menopause and years since menopause were among the few factors assessed in the study that were significantly associated with an increase in breast size, with weight gain the most important one.