Female breasts can develop in various shapes and sizes. A person’s genetics, age, body weight, and hormone levels can all influence the shape and size of their breasts, areolae, and nipples.
This article will look at several different types of breast, areolae, and nipple shape. It will also cover factors and conditions that may that influence a person’s breast shape.
The sections below will describe some different female breast shapes.
Round breasts have a uniform appearance with roughly equal fullness on the top and bottom.
Bell shaped breasts typically occur in people with larger breasts. These breasts tend to be narrow at the top and full at the bottom.
Teardrop breasts look similar to bell shaped breasts. However, teardrop breasts are rounder and only slightly fuller on the bottom than the top.
Conical breasts are cone-like in shape.
The tops of the breasts slope down toward the nipples, which point outward. This shape often occurs in people with smaller breasts.
Breasts with looser or thin breast tissue tend to have a relaxed or elongated shape.
The nipples typically sit lower on relaxed breasts, and they may or may not point downward.
East-West breasts are full on the top and bottom, and the nipples point in opposite directions, away from the body’s midline.
Side-set breasts are similar to East-West shapes. However, side-set breasts gravitate away from the center of the chest, which leaves more space between them.
Close-set breasts have little or no space between them.
They sit in the center of the chest, which leaves a bigger area between the breasts and the shoulders.
Breast asymmetry occurs when one breast is a different shape or size to the other.
Most people have slight breast asymmetry. However, if a person is unhappy with how their breasts look or breast asymmetry is affecting their daily lives, they can see a doctor to discuss potential treatment options.
Researchers from the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, GA, documented the dimensions of 87 women’s breasts. The researchers found that the left breast was bigger than the right in 62% of these women.
However, the degree of asymmetry will vary from person to person. Some people have one breast that is noticeably larger or smaller than the other. Other asymmetric breasts have minor differences that typically go unnoticed.
Having uneven breasts or nipples does not necessarily constitute a medical emergency. That said, a person should inform their doctor if they notice a change in the shape or size of one breast.
According to research, some adolescents may experience severe breast asymmetry. Causes include diseases of the breast tissue, the effects of certain medical treatments, and congenital factors.
Doctors may find asymmetrical breast size or tissue density during a routine mammogram test or breast cancer screening.
In a 2015 study in the journal Breast Cancer: Basic and Clinical Research, researchers found a significant correlation between prominent differences in breast volume and the risk of breast cancer.
According to the authors, people with breast asymmetry ratios — that is, the difference in breast volumes divided by the volume of the smaller breast — over 20% had a twofold increase in the risk of breast cancer.
The areola is the ring of darker tissue surrounding the nipple.
Like breasts and other parts of the body, no two sets of areolae are exactly the same. Areolae can develop in several different sizes, colors, and textures.
The size of the areola is typically 3–6 centimeters. However, “normal” areolae may be larger or smaller than this average.
It is normal for areolae to change in size or color at different points in a person’s life, especially when a woman is pregnant or breastfeeding.
Areolae can be pink, tan, or brown. They can also vary in texture. For example, some appear uneven or bumpy, while others look more round or circular.
The nipple is the raised section of tissue at the center of the areola. The nipple connects to the mammary glands, which are responsible for producing breast milk.
Nipples are highly variable and unique to each person. They can be flat, puffy, bumpy, or hairy.
Some different types of nipple include:
- Puffy nipples: The areola and nipple form a raised mound that protrudes or puffs outward from the breast.
- Flat nipples: The nipple is the same height as the areola.
- Bumpy nipples: Montgomery tubercles are oil-producing glands located beneath the skin of the areola and nipple. These are visible in some people, causing small bumps on the areola.
- Hairy nipples: The skin on the areola contains hair follicles. The hair that grows out from the areola can vary in color and texture.
- Inverted nipples: Some people have nipples that retract inward. They may protrude in response to cold temperatures or sexual arousal.
Some people may wonder which factors contribute to breast shape. Genetics can play a role in determining the shape, tissue density, and size of a person’s breasts.
Other factors that may influence breast shape include:
Breasts contain glandular, connective, and fat tissue.
Fat surrounds the milk-producing mammary glands and gives breasts their characteristic round shape.
Estrogen stimulates the growth of mammary glands. It also plays a role in determining where the body stores fat.
Females may notice that their breasts swell just before they get their period. This change occurs as a result of rising estrogen levels.
Over time, the body produces fewer reproductive hormones.
According to an article in the journal Dermato Endocrinology, decreasing estrogen levels leads to smaller mammary glands and the loss of glandular tissue.
Aging also causes changes in skin elasticity, which may cause the breast to appear smaller or more elongated.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Hormonal changes during pregnancy and breastfeeding can also cause swelling in the breasts.
Mammary glands can increase in size and number as a result of rising estrogen levels during pregnancy.
The breasts should return to their usual size once breastfeeding stops.
The following sections will describe some health conditions that may affect the shape of a person’s breast.
Mastitis causes inflammation in the breast due to an infection. A clogged milk duct or cuts in the skin can lead to infections.
This condition most commonly affects women who are breastfeeding.
Health professionals treat mastitis using antibiotics. They may also empty blocked milk ducts or surgically drain any abscesses that form in the breast.
Adenosis is a noncancerous breast condition characterized by enlarged lobules, which are the milk-producing components of mammary glands.
This condition may make the breasts appear swollen or lumpy.
However, adenosis does not typically require treatment and should disappear by itself.
Juvenile hypertrophy is a rare condition that causes rapid and excessive breast growth during puberty.
The exact cause remains unknown, but current theories suggest that hormonal irregularities and genetics may contribute to juvenile hypertrophy.
In addition to rapid breast growth, juvenile hypertrophy can also cause:
- redness and swelling of the breasts
- thickening of the skin and underlying tissues of the breast
- the appearance of visible veins under the skin
- pain or soreness in the breasts and back
Breast reduction surgery is the first-line treatment for juvenile hypertrophy.
Doctors may also recommend hormonal birth control and estrogen receptor-modulating medication to help relieve the symptoms and prevent further breast growth.
Hormonal fluctuations, aging, and pregnancy can all cause changes in the shape, size, or color of a person’s breasts.
However, a person should inform a doctor of any significant changes in the appearance of one or both of their breasts.
People should also contact a doctor if they experience any of the following symptoms of breast cancer:
- a new lump or mass that can be painless or tender, soft or hard, or round or irregularly shaped
- dimpling of the skin on the breast
- nipple retraction
- red, dry, or flaky skin on the breast or nipple
- unexplained tenderness or soreness of the breast or nipple
- unusual nipple discharge
- swollen lymph nodes near the armpit or the collar bone
A health professional can help determine the underlying cause of the breast changes and recommend the best treatment options.
Infections, such as mastitis, respond to antibiotic therapies. Hormonal therapy is an effective treatment for juvenile hypertrophy and certain types of breast cancer.
Generally, however, treatments for breast cancer vary depending on the stage it has reached.
Some other treatments for breast cancer include:
- radiation therapy
- hormone therapy
- other targeted therapies
Breasts can develop in many different shapes and sizes. A person’s genetics, body fat, and age can all influence the shape of their breasts, areolae, and nipples.
Breasts can change in response to fluctuating hormone levels. Many people notice swollen or tender breasts during menstruation and pregnancy.
A person should contact a doctor if they notice a significant change in the appearance of one or both of their breasts.