The breast anatomy of males and females is slightly different. Female breasts have milk ducts and glandular tissue that aid breastfeeding. Male and female breast nipples have many nerves that enhance sexual arousal. All sexes and genders can get breast cancer. Females are more prone to benign (noncancerous) breast disease.
Breasts are part of the female and male sexual anatomy. For women and people assigned female at birth (AFAB), breasts are both functional (for breastfeeding or chestfeeding) and sexual (bringing pleasure). For men and people assigned male at birth (AMAB), there isn’t a physiological function. However, a man’s breasts can still provide sexual pleasure.
The visible parts of your breast anatomy include your nipples and areolas. Most people are born with two breasts.
Several kinds of tissue form the breasts of women and people AFAB. Muscles connect your breasts to your ribs. The three different types of breast tissue in women include:
Men and people AMAB have gynecomastia glandular tissue and fatty tissue. Their glandular tissue contains underdeveloped milk ducts.
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There are many different parts to female breast anatomy, including:
Men and people AMAB have breasts, too. During puberty, the hormone testosterone usually stops breasts from developing as they would in a woman or person AFAB. On the outside, men have nipples and areolae. Internally, they have undeveloped milk ducts and no glandular tissue. Male breast problems can include gynecomastia, a benign condition that causes the breasts to enlarge, and very rarely, breast cancer.
Female hormones — namely, estrogen, progesterone and prolactin — play a key role in breast development and function. The main role of the breasts is to produce human milk.
Breast cancer is the number one threat to breast health. Approximately 1 in 13 women and people AFAB will receive a breast cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. Other conditions that affect breast health include:
Your mammogram report may note that you have dense breasts. Dense breasts have more glandular and fibrous tissue and less fatty tissue. Dense breast tissue and tumors both look white on mammograms, making it more difficult to detect breast cancer. Up to half of women and people AFAB between the ages of 40 and 74 have dense breasts. The condition isn’t related to breast size, look or feel. People with very dense breasts have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer. Talk to your healthcare provider about your risk for breast cancer based on your breast density.
As breast cancer is a top concern, talk to a healthcare provider about when and how often to get mammograms. Recommendations vary depending on risk factors, such as family or personal health history. Breast self-exams can help you get familiar with how your breasts look and feel so you’re more likely to notice changes in your breasts.
Your nipples contain hundreds of nerve endings. Generally, a female breast is more sensitive to stimulation due to hormones. However, males can also experience pleasure from the nerve endings in their nipples.
You should call a healthcare provider if you experience:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Female breasts can produce milk for breastfeeding (chestfeeding) and serve as an erogenous (pleasure) zone. Males also have breasts, but they don’t serve the same purpose. The tissues in your breasts can become cancerous. Regular mammograms, or breast screenings, can help detect cancer early when it’s most treatable. Call your healthcare provider anytime you notice a change in the way your breasts look or feel.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/05/2023.
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