Tits & Guns Guardsmen serving in Germany's ceremonial display unit - the only formation which still parades with the Nazi-era service rifle - are much more likely than other soldiers to grow a single breast on the left side of their bodies, according to a medical study. Boffins looking into the matter believe that the undesired enboobenation may be caused by repeated contact with the Hitlerian weapons.
The study in question was actually carried out last year, but we here on the Reg tits-n-guns desk only heard about it yesterday when it was flagged up by Marc Abrahams (of Ig Nobel fame) using popular blogging platform The Grauniad.
In the research, military doc-boffins compared the incidence of gynecomastia (a condition where men grow breasts) in the entire German military with that in the Wachbataillon beim Bundesministerium der Verteidigung ("Ministry of Defence Guard Battalion"), the country's premier ceremonial parade and drill unit.
The boffins found that male Wachbataillon personnel develop gynecomastia much more often than ordinary soldiers, sailors and airmen, and that this is overwhelmingly of the form in which just one enlarged man-boob appears on the left side of the chest.
According to the study (which can be read here in pdf):
A possible explanation is the mechanical impact of the carbine against the left side of the body during the drills that these soldiers regularly perform as part of their ceremonial duties.
This has been interpreted by Abrahams to mean that any repeated rifle impact on the chest could cause a man to grow a breast at the impact location. However, other nations' ceremonial drill units - for instance the Brigade of Guards here in Blighty - show no signs of this.
But the red-coated household troops of our own Queen carry a standard modern service rifle, the formerly much-maligned SA80, albeit with a sleeve over the forestock for ceremonial purposes*. The great majority of the modern Bundeswehr use a not dissimilar weapon, the G36. None of these troops apparently suffer any unusual enboobenation.
Uniquely, however, the "carbine" which the Wachbataillon "protocol troops" frequently drill and parade with is in fact the Karabiner 98k (most would describe this not as a carbine but an old-school bolt action service rifle). This was chosen as the standard arm of Hitler's Wehrmacht in 1935, and was carried by Nazi troops including the SS until the end of World War II. There was some controversy in the mid-1990s when it was found that Kar98ks used by the Wachbataillon still carried swastikas and other Nazi-era markings.
So - given that there's no indication of rifle contact as such leading to gynecomastia, just contact with Karabiner 98k weapons in particular - it would seem that there may be something about contact with Nazi militaria or similar artifacts which causes male boob growth.
*Trivia: Nowadays, since being upgraded to the L85A2 version, the SA80 is considered a good if somewhat heavy example of its type. The upgrade was done, of course, in Germany rather than by the British factories which had cocked the SA80 up to begin with. Evidently one of the less important flaws of the SA80 L85A1 - the tendency of the plastic cover over the gas parts to pop open when the user presented arms on parade with any snap - wasn't fixed, hence the Guards' special forestock covers.