Female breast

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Female breasts
Maternité , in German " motherhood " (drawing by Mary Cassatt , 1890)

The female breast ( Latin mamma or mamma feminina ) is anatomically one of the secondary gender characteristics and consists of fat and connective tissue as well as the mammary gland (glandula mammaria) . In breastfeeding women, this can release breast milk through secretion through fine ducts that open onto the nipple . The mammary gland corresponds to the mammary gland of mammals. The rudimentary male breast is called Mamma masculina in Latin. The woman's two breasts are also known as the bosom (the male breast is also poetically obsolete ).

The biological function is, first of all, the breastfeeding of infants with breast milk. However, since most female primates have significantly less pronounced breasts than women compared to their male counterparts, it is assumed that the female breasts in humans are also a special human sexual dimorphism and that their attraction to potential partners makes up a second function. The breasts - especially the nipples - belong to the specific erogenous zones (partly also in men).

In medicine , senology deals with diseases of the female breasts; one of the most common diseases of this type is breast cancer .


Schematic cross-section through the female breast: 1. thorax 2.  large pectoral muscle 3.  mammary gland 4.  nipple 5.  areola 6.  milk ducts 7.  adipose tissue 8.  skin

Stages of development

In the embryonic stage of development, in both sexes, the attachment to the mammary gland arises from the ectoderm . The breast development is in girls due to hormonal changes during puberty instead. During pregnancy and lactation , the mammary gland functions as a milk-secreting gland. With age, the shape and size of the breast changes due to a reduction in fat and connective tissue.

Position and shape

The chest is located under the skin on the pectoralis major and minor pectoralis major , from the second to the seventh rib .

The bay or channel between the two breasts of a woman is called in anatomical terminology Sulcus intermammarius , German "bosom"; this was a translation of the earlier name Sinus mammarium (Latin sinus "curve, fold, pocket, bay"). In poetic language, “bosom” stood for the human breast from an early age , before the meaning shifted to the female breasts. The Duden names the first meaning of "bosom": "female breast in its plastic appearance, especially with regard to its erotic charm".

Female breasts come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. These depend on genetic factors and the proportion of fat and connective tissue. Hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle or hormonal changes during pregnancy also affect the shape and size of a breast.

Contrary to popular belief, the increasing sagging of the breast (technically speaking mastoptosis ) is not caused by breastfeeding , but by the loosening of connective tissue, among other things, by breast size before pregnancy, body mass index , smoking behavior and drug consumption.

Structure of the mammary gland

Structure of a lobule
Light microscopic section of the human proliferating mammary gland; In the picture above, a small milk duct sprouts from the glandular epithelium into the connective tissue

The structure of the mammary gland depends on the menstrual cycle, pregnancy or breastfeeding period. Only during this is the gland fully developed. The smallest system of the mammary gland is the glandular lobe ( Lobulus glandulae mammariae ), which is a cavity system. A lobule is mainly composed of the milk cells (glandular epithelium, on the picture "secretion cell"), a lumen in which the milk collects, and to a lesser extent of myoepithelial cells , which press the milk out of the lobule. All cells are grouped acinar (berry-like) around the lumen.

The lumen has an outlet duct, the terminal duct . This opens into a small milk duct, the ductus lactifer . The entire lobule is surrounded by a thin layer of collagen .

The second largest complex is the collection of several lobules to form a grape-shaped lobe (glandular lobe), the lobus glandulae mammariae . A large milk duct, the ductus lactifer colligens , which has formed from the duct system of the small milk ducts, leads out of the lobe . Every large duct of milk flows into the nipple. Shortly before flowing into the nipple, the large duct to an expanded milk bag , the sinus lactiferous . The mammary gland contains a total of 10 to 20 lobi, which, together with the large milk ducts, are arranged in an almost star-shaped manner around the nipple.

Easily distinguishable are the raised light brown or light red to dark brown nipples in the middle of the flatter areola of the same color ( Latin areola ), which in turn is located in the middle of the breast. Touching the nipples often has a stimulating effect, arouses the sex drive or, especially after pregnancy, leads to the secretion of breast milk. This emerges from several openings on the surface of the nipple and can be sucked out or spray out in fine jets when pressure is applied to the breast.

Lymph outflow from the mammary gland occurs in four ways:

  1. partly under flow through the nodes lymphoidei paramammarii , into the axillary lymph nodes from there via the infraclavicular and supraclavicular lymph nodes to the venous angle .
  2. from the Nodi lymphoidei paramammarii directly to the infraclavicular and supraclavicular lymph nodes.
  3. via the interpectoral lymph nodes to the infraclavicular and supraclavicular lymph nodes.
  4. Finally, lymph channels also run to the parasternal lymph nodes inside the chest.

Diseases and malformations of the breast

Pathological changes in their breasts may be obtained by scanning ( palpation ), close examination of the skin, ultrasound , mammography , magnetic resonance imaging and tissue sampling notice.

Inflammation of the breast (gland) is called mastitis , and tension pain is called mastodynia . Benign remodeling processes are mastopathy , the duct papilloma , fibrosis (replacement of the glandular tissue by connective tissue), fibroadenoma and cysts . Breast enlargement caused by the overproduction of endogenous or exogenous hormones is known as hypertrophy .

One of the most common tumors in women is breast cancer (breast cancer), which comes in various forms ( DCIS , LCIS , invasive ductal carcinoma , invasive lobular carcinoma , inflammatory breast carcinoma , Paget's carcinoma )

As malformation may strips along the milk to supernumerary nipples ( polythelia ) or supernumerary mammary gland ( polymastia come). The congenital lack of the mammary gland is called amastia , for example in the very rare limb-mammary syndrome .


Model with hat (painting by Filipp Andrejewitsch Maljawin , 20th century)

The breast and its sight represent an important erotic stimulus for possible sexual partners. The preferences for different breast sizes and shapes differ greatly, both for women and for men, and have changed a lot over time and fashion epochs the female breast, like all other body shapes and biological characteristics, is subject to great variability ( phenotypic variation ). In the 1990s, the term side boobs found its way into the English-speaking world, a derogatory term for an enlargement of the tissue between the outside of the breast and the armpit area that often occurs in older women. The term is increasingly used in German. The medical name is Tail of Spence or Spence's tail .

The chest is a popular motif in erotic and nudes .

Increasingly common are plastic surgery performed: Possible are both breast augmentation through implants and breast reductions by removing fat, glandular or connective tissue .

With nipple piercing , the nipple is pierced in order to attach jewelry to it.

Breast as an erogenous zone

When excited, the nipples stand up and the area around the nipple, the so-called halo, swells. This erection of the nipples is not caused by the erectile tissue (as is the case with the genitals) , but by a contraction of the smooth muscles that is controlled by the autonomic nervous system. It is more like erecting hair follicles ; it is caused by the same reflex of the hair follicle muscle that causes goose bumps . Like a penis and clitoris , an erect nipple can evoke intense emotions. For example, some women can achieve orgasm by stimulating their nipples .


The breasts of human women are much larger than those of related female primates and represent a particular attraction . The British zoologist Desmond Morris therefore proposed that the human breasts represent a replica of the similar looking female buttocks , which in some species of monkeys a sexual signal are. Morris sees this replica as an adaptation to the upright gait that made the underside of pre-humans the more important front of humans.

From this knowledge, the zoologists Avishag and Amotz Zahavi developed the handicap theory , which says that the useless parts of the body (or behavior) demonstrate how healthy and robust one's own organism is because it is able to carry the additional load. A typical feature of such sexually selected traits is considerable variation in the population. Since the human breasts can have significantly different sizes due to the storage of very different amounts of fatty tissue in different women, an evolution of the breasts as a fitness signal for partners is very likely and suggests that the main function in humans is actually in the direction of the attraction of Men is relocated. The high content of fat tissue, which is very energy-intensive under non-industrial conditions, and the stress on the spine from large breasts support this theory of the development of this part of the body.

See also


  • J. Arnolsen, Fritz Prager: The female breast in art and nature. With many illustrations based on living models and drawings by Raphael Kirchner. Edition Winkler-Hermaden, Schleinbach 2010, ISBN 978-3-9502688-9-8 (reprint of the original Bermühler edition, Berlin around 1906).
  • Daphna Ayalah and others: Breasts: Women talk about their breasts and their lives. Courage Frauenbuchverlag, Berlin 1983, ISBN 3-921710-03-0 .
  • Karl-Heinz Broer among others: The female breast: precaution, protection, health and beauty. Neuer Honos, Cologne 2001, ISBN 3-8299-5546-4 .
  • Lois Jovanovic, Genell J. Subak-Sharpe: Hormones. The medical manual for women. Kabel, Hamburg 1989, ISBN 3-8225-0100-X , pp. 181-182, 228-250, 368 and 380-381 (original: Hormones: The Woman's Answerbook. Atheneum, New York 1987; from the American by Margaret Auer ).
  • J. Kraus: mammary gland. In: Surgery Historically. Beginning - development - differentiation. Published by FX Sailer and FW Gierhake. Dustri, Deisenhofen 1973, ISBN 3-87185-021-7 , pp. 192-199.
  • Carolyn Latteier: Breasts: The Women's Perspective on an American Obsession. Routledge, 1998, ISBN 0-7890-0422-4 (English; Haworth innovations in feminist studies ).
  • Susan Love : The Breast Book: What Women Want To Know. Limes, dtv, Munich 1996, ISBN 3-8090-3003-1 .
  • Ingrid Olbricht : Chest views: self-image, health and symbolism of a female organ. Orlanda Frauenverlag, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-929823-93-4 (previous: The breast: organ and symbol of female identity ).
  • Miriam Stoppard: The chest. Ravensburger, Ravensburg 1997, ISBN 3-473-42388-2 (original: The Breast Book , translated by Jeanette Stark-Städele, medical care by Eberhard Schneckenburger).
  • Marilyn Yalom: A History of the Breast. Marion von Schröder, Düsseldorf 1998, ISBN 3-547-79876-0 (original: A History of the Breast , translated by Olga Rinne).

Web links

Commons : Female human breasts  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Breasts  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Helga Fritsch, Helmut Leonhardt : Female breast and mammary gland. In: Same: Pocket Atlas Anatomy. 10th edition. Volume 2: Internal Organs. Thieme, Stuttgart 2009, ISBN 978-3-13-492110-6 , pp. 436–445, here p. 436 (first published in 1975; page preview in the Google book search); Quote: "The groove between both breasts is called breast, Sinus mammarium sive Sulcus intermammarius ."
  2. Anatol Stefanowitsch : The myth of the valley between the breasts. In: SciLogs . October 28, 2011, accessed on May 10, 2020.
    Ibid: The incorrigible shallowness of language naggers (Part 1). May 30, 2011 (Contra of the linguist against Andreas Busch ).
  3. Duden editorial office : Breast, the. Retrieved May 10, 2020; Quote: “2.a) breast; Usage: poetic, outdated ”.
  4. Chritian J. Gabka, Heinz Bohmert: Plastic and reconstructive surgery of the breast. 2nd, completely updated and expanded edition. Thieme, Stuttgart / New York 2006, ISBN 978-3-13-100562-5 , p. 4 ( page preview in the Google book search).
  5. Gesa Graser: No sagging after breastfeeding. In: Wissenschaft.de . November 5, 2007, accessed May 10, 2020 .
  6. ^ Samuel Pilnik: Common Breast Lesions. A Photographic Guide to Diagnosis and Treatment . Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge 2003, ISBN 978-0-521-82357-9 , pp. 47 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  7. ^ Werner Platzer: Pocket Atlas of Anatomy, Volume 1: Musculoskeletal system. 11th edition. Georg Thieme Verlag, 2013, ISBN 978-3-13-151071-6 , p. 396.
  8. ^ Klaus Holldack, Klaus Gahl: Auscultation and percussion. Inspection and palpation. Thieme, Stuttgart 1955; 10th, revised edition ibid 1986, ISBN 3-13-352410-0 , p. 58 f.
  9. Lois Jovanovic, Genell J. Subak-Sharpe: Hormones. The medical manual for women. (Original edition: Hormones. The Woman's Answerbook. Atheneum, New York 1987) From the American by Margaret Auer, Kabel, Hamburg 1989, ISBN 3-8225-0100-X , p. 374 ( Fibrosis ).
  10. ^ Gray's Anatomy E-Book: The Anatomical Basis of Clinical Practice . Elsevier Health Sciences, 2015, ISBN 978-0-7020-6851-5 , pp. 98 ( books.google.de ).
  11. Breast games. In: Felice Newman: She loves you. The lesbian sex book. Orlanda Frauenverlag, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-936937-59-6 .
  12. Treat Her To A 'Nipple Orgasm' '. In: Men's Health .
  13. Desmond Morris: The Animal Man. Heyne, 1996, ISBN 3-453-09883-8 .
  14. Geoffrey Miller: The Sexual Evolution. Choice of partner and the emergence of the mind. Spectrum Academic Publishing House, 2009, ISBN 978-3-8274-2508-9 .