Research Group in Breast Health
In the Research Group in Breast Health, we use our expertise in breast biomechanics to improve scientific knowledge of breast health and raise awareness of this aspect of women's health.
Our team is responsible for more than half the scientific publications in breast biomechanics worldwide. And our research achieves considerable press coverage. We collaborate with many of the major multinational lingerie and sporting apparel manufacturers.
We offer the following services to businesses in the lingerie and sports wear industries, and to sporting organisations.
Consumers deserve the best in breast support.
We can help you develop the best product for your customers through our scientific bra testing services.
We've spent years investigating the performance of bras and breast support, for scientific purposes and in collaboration with brands around the world.
We've worked with thousands of women to build a comprehensive database of bra performance for analysis and comparison. As experts in breast biomechanics, we can help you inform future product design, development and marketing.
Our bra testing services can:
- Help you understand the performance, fit, comfort and consumer appeal of your products
- Scientifically test your products so you understand how they perform in terms of support and comfort
- Give you a competitive advantage by testing your competitors' products
- Tell you how your products can be improved
- Give you an understanding of the breast support requirements for different populations, breast sizes and functions (from maternity bras to teen bras)
- Show you how your bras compare to every bra we've ever tested
Bra testing packages
You can choose from 3 bra testing packages:
- Bronze – 1 test
- Silver – 4 tests
- Gold – 8 tests
Each package includes your choice of tests. You can include multiple runs of tests in the silver or gold packages. All tests take 6 weeks to complete. You'll get regular updates from our researchers throughout the testing process.
We've worked with thousands of volunteers to become experts in breast biomechanics and breast health.
We run the following tests:
To establish the support and comfort provided by 5 bras (sports bras and everyday bras) of your choice.
To have bra performance evaluated practically by your target market.
To assess the 360 degree fit of your bras and how they shape and position the breast.
Get authentic opinions and attitudes from your target market to inform future product design and/or marketing.
Benefit from our scientific approach
We've developed and validated unique scientific methods for bra testing. Our scientific approach includes:
- Strict participant recruitment, including professional bra fitting with trained and highly experienced fitters, and health history assessment
- Data collection and analysis based on rigorous scientific methodologies published in peer-reviewed journals
- Product recommendations and feedback informed by decades of experience
Our bra testing stamp
When you use our bra testing services, you can display our bra testing stamp on marketing materials, packaging, presentations and on the products. Our stamp shows your products have been independently tested by our renowned research group.
Welcome to the research group in breast health at the University of Portsmouth.
We are world leaders in the area of breast biomechanics. We've been working in this area, investigating the performance of bras for over 12 years now. So we've built up a real database of information in this area. And we can work with you to help develop the best products.
In order to do that we offer different bra testing services: bronze, silver and gold. We also offer bespoke research packages.
Here we have our specialist breast biomechanics laboratory and this is where we test all of the products that companies send us.
Our testing is based on research that we've published in the scientific literature over many years of research in this area. Within our bronze, silver and gold bra testing packages we aim to assess the performance and breast support of sports bras and everyday bras. And we're able to do this by using our state-of-the-art motion capture technology.
We've got 2 main systems that we use within our bra testing. The first is our camera system and that tracks reflective markers which are positioned on the body and the bra. It's also really important to understand what's happening inside the bra and we're able to measure this using our motion sensor system. The benefit of this system is that the sensors can be placed directly on the breast beneath the bra to track breast movement.
We test the performance of each bra based on different activities chosen by you, depending on the function of the bra. Normally we test sports bras during running but we can also test everyday bras during daily tasks.
Our volunteers then repeat those activities but without a bra and this bare breasted activity acts as a baseline that we can calculate the percentage of breast movement that is reduced when they are wearing a bra. So this percentage of breast movement reduction, or bounce control, tells us how supportive a bra is.
We've got to a stage now where we've tested hundreds, probably even thousands of bra,s and the benefit of that is you can compare your products to the bras that we've already tested. Although these data are anonymised it gives a good indication of how your bras are performing against those that are already in the market.
Also within our bra testing we collect subjective feedback and that's on things like bra comfort support, breast pain. And that ties in really nicely with the breast breast biomechanics data to give you an overview of how the bra meets the needs of the consumer.
Lastly what makes working with us really unique is the feedback you receive from our experts. And we will offer recommendations on how products can be improved.
All of this is delivered within a written report and so that includes the breast biomechanics data, consumer feedback and recommendations from our experts.
Our state-of-the-art kit also allows us to produce slow motion videos which give a visual representation of how your products have performed.
Additional to the bra testing the bronze, silver and gold packages also offer other benefits such as consultancy days with our world leading experts.
Additional bra testing services
Data processing services
We're keen to investigate the full spectrum of factors important to this industry. We can work with you on a research project designed to meet your needs. Often, we're also seeking commercial partners for fundamental research.
You can set up your own remote breast biomechanics lab in your factory with our support. You can then collect your own data. We’ll process your data using our robust scientific algorithms.
- quick results to better assess initial prototyping and bra development
- to use the latest data collection and data analysis processes keeping you ahead of the competition
Contact us to find out more about our bra testing services and packages.
Phone: +44 (0)23 9284 5161
Breast science educational workshops
If you're interested in learning more about breast biomechanics, join one of our 1-day workshops. You can also get in touch for a bespoke workshop designed to your company's needs.
Our research group runs a 1-day educational workshop called, 'The science behind breasts and bras'. It's the only available workshop on the market for relevant information on this topic.
On this workshop, you'll get a better understanding of breast anatomy, the problems with breasts and the science behind how they move. You'll develop your knowledge of biomechanics, breast support and bra fit.
You'll get the chance to network with other breast health professionals, bra manufacturers, designers and healthcare professionals.
On our bespoke workshops, we tailor the content to the needs of your company. You could focus on your team's understanding of bra fit, bra design or functional breast support requirements. Or any other biomechanic or anatomical topic.
We're an independent research group. We have no affiliation with any brand or company. This means we'll give your team impartial, confidential advice and guidance. And our advice and guidance is always backed by our research.
We've led bespoke workshops for most of the major sports apparel and lingerie brands in the world. Companies we've worked with include sporting apparel companies, bra manufacturers, lingerie companies, athletics training institutions, sports associations, elite athletes and physiotherapists.
For more information contact email@example.com.
The Research Group in Breast Health offers an online version of the widely popular ‘The science behind breasts and bras workshop’ – open to bra manufacturers, designers, healthcare professionals and other interested parties.
This virtual option offers you the chance to develop your knowledge and understanding of breast anatomy, the problems with breasts and the science behind how the breast moves in a 3-hour interactive workshop hosted online.
The workshop also presents the latest research in breast biomechanics, breast support and bra fit. This a fantastic opportunity to discuss important aspects of bra wearing and breast health, and ask our world leading experts questions about this fascinating area of research.
- Mode of study: Hosted online (Zoom)
- Duration: 2.30pm-5.30pm (GMT)
- Date: Friday 11 December 2020
- Cost: £125
Please book your place here.
Breast education resources for teachers
Adolescent girls can go through periods of self-consciousness, negative body image and low self-esteem. This happens at the same time as their first stages of breast development – the first outward sign of puberty.
In 2015 we surveyed more than 2,000 girls between 11 and 17 years old. We found that:
- Few girls knew what sort of bra to wear, whether their bra was a good fit or how to avoid breast pain
- Three-quarters of girls had at least 1 concern about their breasts such as embarrassment when getting changed for sport, breast bounce and breast pain
- More than 70% of girls wanted to know more about how to check for signs of breast cancer
50-minute breast education presentation and lesson plan
Following extensive consultation with girls, teachers and schools we have produced Treasure Your Chest, a breast education presentation and lesson plan to help you teach adolescent girls about breast health. This is free to download from our Treasure Your Chest website.
The Treasure Your Chest presentation aims to improve girls' breast knowledge, confidence and breast health habits and covers the following topics:
- An icebreaker to tackle the embarrassment of talking about breasts
- Understanding the anatomy of the breast
- Why some girls may suffer breast pain and why girls need a bra
- The bra fitting process
- Things to look out for when buying a new bra
- Breast sizes and shapes
- Breast awareness
- Looking out for breast cancer
The resources also include detailed learning outcomes and background information so teachers can answer any questions they might get on the topics.
Visit our Treasure Your Chest website to learn more about our education initiative and to download our resources.
Educate your class on breast health and awareness with our free breast education presentation and lesson plan.
- Dr Nikki Brown, Reader in Female Health, St Mary's University
- Dr Jenny Smith, Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology, Chichester University
- Amanda Brasher, Visiting Research Associate
- Alison Walker, Visiting Research Associate
Our research covers the following areas:
We work with many manufacturers to inform the research and development of products to improve women’s quality of life.
Our research focuses on establishing appropriate breast support for different populations, environments and activities. Our research is at the front of methodological developments. This enables us to investigate areas including:
- support provided by different bras
- thermal responses to wearing a bra
- factors that influence the support requirements throughout a woman’s life
Our research has shown that breast support requirements differ during different life stages such as puberty, pregnancy, illness (breast cancer) and menopause. Understanding breast support preferences and requirements throughout the life cycle is crucial to offer appropriate solutions for women throughout their lives.
We actively investigate Breast Health Education in schoolgirls to sportswomen and more. In June 2011 the groundbreaking Channel 4 series The Sex Education Show visited the Research Group to film one of our breast health educational workshops with schoolgirls.
We've collaborated with the British Equestrian Trade Association and the British Equestrian Federation to develop a specific educational resource for horse riders. This resource on breast health issues helps horse riders get a good bra fit and an understanding of appropriate breast support for this activity. You can download the resource for free from the British Equestrian Trade Association's website.
A large percentage of the population reports wearing the wrong size bra so an important area of our research focuses on bra fitting. It's really important that women of all breast sizes wear appropriate and correctly-fitted breast support for everyday activities as wearing the correct bra size improves general health and well-being.
Appropriate breast support is especially important when exercising. We have found that breasts move an average of 10cm in 3 directions (up and down, side to side and forwards and backwards) during running, which often leads to breast pain.
In one of our studies, we identified that the traditional bra fitting method doesn't give the best fit. We advocate a series of 'Best Fit' criteria. We believe it's important to educate women on best fit, rather than using a tape measure to dictate bra size.
We recommend that you follow these 5 simple steps to achieving correct bra fit:
- Band – The band should fit firmly around the chest. It shouldn't slide around with movement, but it should not be too tight to be uncomfortable, affect breathing or make flesh bulge over the band. The band should be level all the way around the chest.
- Cup – The breasts should be enclosed within the cups, with no bulging or gaping at the top or sides. If the cup material is puckering then the cup size is probably too big.
- Underwire – The underwire should follow the natural crease of the breasts and not rest on any breast tissue (in the centre, underneath the bra or under the arms). If the underwire is resting too far down the ribcage (such as where the ribcage gets slightly narrower) the band size is probably too small.
- Front – The front of the bra (the lower edge under the breasts and between the cups if a separate piece exists) should sit flat against the body and not gape away from the chest. If the front of the bra is lifting away the cup size may need to be increased.
- Straps – The shoulder straps should be adjusted to comfortably give breast support without being too tight (such as digging into the skin). The main support for the breast should come from a firm band, not tight shoulder straps.
We've identified that the way we run depends on the type of bra worn. These results make our research and development work with sports bra manufacturers vital. It improves breast support and comfort and makes sure that products optimise the way we move.
Our research in the area of breast and body size shows that the relationship between the 2 isn't as clear as originally thought. Clinicians make recommendations for obese women to lose weight to reduce their breast size, but this may not be appropriate.
Our study showed that to lose the same amount of breast tissue that's removed during surgery (an average of 775 grams) a women would have to lose 51 kilograms or 70% of her body weight. Our research in this area continues to provide important information on the changing trends in breast size.
Our research has shown that cyclic and non-cyclic breast pain affects half the female population in the UK. This negatively impacts their quality of life. This breast pain is exaggerated by breast movement, although the exact causes are unclear.
We're researching breast pain to broaden our understanding of it and help relieve the symptoms associated with this widespread condition.
We use motion capture facilities to investigate breast biomechanics. We use our facilities to simulate all kinds of activities and monitor human movement, muscle activity and force application. We use 3D scanning to assess bra fit and breast position, and produce 360 degree views of products we test.
Our facilities are spread across two laboratories, the Alex Milligan lab and the Biomechanics Lab.
Recent publication highlights
Sports Biomechanics (2019), doi.org/10.1080/14763141.2019.1614654, Exell, Timothy A.; Milligan, Alexandra; Burbage, Jenny; Risius, Debbie; Sanchez, Amy; Horler, Brogan; Mills, Chris; Wakefield-Scurr, Joanna
Adolescent Research Review (2018), doi.org/10.1007/s40894-018-0089-0, Omrani, Atefeh; Wakefield-Scurr, Joanna; Smith, Jenny; Brown, Nicola
Comparative Exercise Physiology (2018), doi.org/10.3920/CEP170030, Burbage, Jenny; Cameron, Lorna
The Breast Journal (2017), doi.org/10.1111/tbj.12945, Brown, Nicola; Smith, Jenny; Brasher, Amanda; Risius, Debbie Judith; Marczyk, Anna; Wakefield-Scurr, Joanna.
European Journal of Cancer Prevention (2017), 10.1097/CEJ.0000000000000356, Brown, Nicola; Smith, Jenny; Brasher, Amanda; Omrani, Atefeh; Wakefield-Scurr, Joanna
Featured press highlights
The Breast Health Research Group featured in the BBC One programme 'The Truth About...Getting Fit at Home' testing the best sports bras for exercise.
"Women lose up to four centimeters of stride length due to poorly controlled breast movement while running – which, over the length of a marathon, could translate to running an extra mile, according to a recent study conducted by Brooks Running Co. in conjunction with the University of Portsmouth."
"The team of biomechanic researchers, led by Professor Joanna Wakefield Scurr, has for years tested breast bounce in bras for lingerie manufacturers and the military. But this was the first time they have been asked to test clothing's ability to reduce the bounce and movement of a pregnancy bump during exercise."
"A study into the science of saggy boobs - aiming to establish why "one bra design doesn't fit all" - is appealing for volunteers. Using MRI scanners, researchers at the University of Portsmouth will analyse whether the proportion of fat and glandular tissue affects perkiness."
There are many ways you can get involved in our research.
Become a partner
We're looking for partners to join our Breast Education Consortium and help fund this innovation on an ongoing, sustainable basis. The consortium will continue to develop breast education resources, beginning with schoolgirls but broadening to other sectors where breast knowledge is poor.
For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can get updates on our news and research, sign up for our workshops or volunteer for our studies by subscribing to our newsletter.
Take a look at our newsletter archive for news on our past research.
Take part in our research
We're always looking for female volunteers to take part in out tests such as sports bra testing, bra fit and breast biomechanics.
Complete our volunteer form if you'd like to volunteer or would like more information.
Get involved with our Research Group in Breast Health by taking part in upcoming research.