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Aging changes in the breast

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With aging, a woman's breasts lose fat, tissue, and mammary glands. This causes a reduction in the size and firmness of the breasts. Many of these changes are due to the decrease of in the body's production of estrogen that occurs at menopause. Without estrogen, the gland tissue shrinks making the breasts smaller and less full. The connective tissue that support that support the breasts dries out so the breasts sag.

Changes also occur to in the nipple. The area surrounding the nipple (the areola) becomes smaller and may nearly disappear and the nipple may turn in slightly.

Lumps are common around the time of menopause. These are often noncancerous cysts. However, if you notice a lump, make an appointment with your health care provider because breast cancer risk increases with age. Women should be aware of the benefits and limitations of breast self-exams. These exams do not always pick up early stages of breast cancer. Women should talk to their health care providers about mammograms.

References

Lewis J, Borgen P. Breast Disease. In: Bope ET, Kellerman RD, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2012. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 18.

Minaker KL. Common clinical sequelae of aging. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 24.

Updated: 11/30/2012

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine.Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.


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