Women of the world, science has finally caught up with something you probably already knew: Breasts age a lot quicker than they rightfully should.
There’s now actually a solid, scientific explanation for why boobs tend to sag and wrinkle faster than the rest of a woman’s body: Breast tissue actually ages quicker than any other tissue, according to researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles.
“To fight ageing, we first need an objective way of measuring it. Pinpointing a set of biomarkers that keeps time throughout the body has been a four-year challenge,” said Steve Horvath, professor of human genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and of biostatistics at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.
“My goal in inventing this clock is to help scientists improve their understanding of what speeds up and slows down the human ageing process.”
Professor Horvath studied 8,000 samples of 51 types of tissue and cells taken from all over the body and charted how age affects DNA from before birth through 101 years of age.
To make his “clock” work, he focused on 353 markers throughout the body that change with age. He tested the clock by comparing a tissue’s biological age to its chronological age. The clock proved very accurate over multiple repeat tests.
“It’s surprising that one could develop a clock that reliably keeps time across the human anatomy,” he said. “My approach really compared apples and oranges, or in this case, very different parts of the body: the brain, heart, lungs, liver, kidney and cartilage.”
One of the most interesting things he was able to determine was a better understanding of how breast tissue ages in relation to the rest of the body.
“Healthy breast tissue is about two to three years older than the rest of a woman’s body,” he said.
His research might also explain why breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women.
“If a woman has breast cancer, the healthy tissue next to the tumour is an average of 12 years older than the rest of her body,” he revealed.
The implications of Professor Horvath’s research are huge for women’s health. If scientists can better identify the body’s biological clock, what’s to say they can’t rewind it?
“The big question is whether the biological clock controls a process that leads to ageing,” he said. “If so, the clock will become an important biomarker for studying new therapeutic approaches to keeping us young.”
The only problem is that the clock doesn’t pace consistently.
“The clock’s ticking rate isn’t constant,” he explained. “It ticks much faster when we’re born and growing from children into teenagers, then slows to a constant rate when we reach 20.”
Professor Horvath will next focus on whether stopping the biological clock stops ageing or increases cancer risk.