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Medically reviewed by Elaine K. Luo, M.D. on July 15, 2019 — Written by Jamie Eske

As people get older, their body naturally produces fewer reproductive hormones, and this can lead to changes in the texture and shape of the breasts.

Aging affects everyone differently. Age-related changes in the breasts are not usually harmful but are a natural part of aging.

These changes in the breasts occur as a result of low estrogen levels and changes in skin elasticity. Aging also increases the risk of developing growths, such as fibroidscysts, and cancer, all of which can affect the appearance of the breasts.

In this article, we explain how aging affects the breasts and discuss treatment options and prevention tips.

How does aging affect the breasts?

mature female friends enjoying ice creamChanges in the shape and texture of a person’s breasts are a natural part of aging.

Over time, estrogen levels drop, which leads to a loss of gland tissue in the breast. Along with changes in skin elasticity, this may cause the breasts to appear smaller and lower down than before. The nipples may also change in appearance.

Possible breast changes that may occur as a result of aging include:

Changes to the breasts can occur due to:

Low estrogen levels

As females get older, their bodies start to produce less of the reproductive hormone estrogen than before. Estrogen stimulates the growth of breast tissue, while low levels of this hormone cause the mammary glands to shrink. Fat may fill the new space, making the breasts appear softer and less full.

Low estrogen levels can also cause connective tissue in the breast to lose its elasticity and become dehydrated.

These changes can cause the breasts to appear smaller, and they may seem to sag.

Other symptoms of low estrogen include:

During menopause, the body’s levels of estrogen and progesterone decrease significantly.

According to the Office on Women’s Health, females officially reach menopause when they do not have a menstrual period for at least 12 continuous months. In the United States, the average age for menopause is 52 years.

Skin changes

Over time, the skin starts to become thinner, lose fat, and develop wrinkles and age spots. In the same way, the breasts start to lose fat, and the tissues lose elasticity. As a result, they appear smaller and lower down.

Growths in the breast tissue

The chances of developing growths in the breast, such as fibroids, cysts, and tumors, increases with age. In most cases, these lumps are noncancerous, and most females have them. However, it is important to get a doctor to check any new lumps.

Noncancerous lumps can include the following:

Breast cancer

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source, doctors most commonly diagnose breast cancer in people 50 years of age or older. However, it is important for younger adults to conduct regular breast self-examinations and attend regular mammograms.

Read about how to do a breast self-exam here.

Cancer cells may develop into growths that people can feel under the skin during breast self-exams.

Other symptoms can include:

Learn more about the symptoms of breast cancer besides a lump here.

Hormone therapy

Hormone therapy affects the amount of hormones that the body produces.

Doctors often use this type of therapy to treat hormone receptor-positive breast cancer by slowing the growth of cancer cells.

Hormone therapy can make the breasts appear firmer or more dense. These changes can also occur if people take menopause hormone therapy or hormonal birth control.

When to see a doctor

People should contact their doctor if they experience the following symptoms of an underlying medical condition:

Doctors can use ultrasoundMRI, or biopsy to identify changes inside the breast.

Treatment

Aging is a natural process, and age-related changes to the breast are not harmful and do not need treatment.

However, if a person feels uncomfortable with changes in their breasts, they can talk to a doctor about the following options:

Maintaining a healthy body weight through regular exercise and a balanced diet may also help reduce age-related changes to the breasts.

Read about five ways to improve skin health here.

Prevention

mother and daughter at outside swimming poolUsing sunscreen can help lessen age-related breast changes.

Although there is no way to prevent the natural aging process entirely, people can lessen the likelihood of significant age-related breast changes by:

Summary

As a person ages, their body produces fewer reproductive hormones. This drop in hormone levels contributes to changes in the shape and texture of the breasts.

Low estrogen levels can cause the mammary glands to shrink and the connective tissue in the breast to lose its elasticity. These changes may make the breasts appear soft or flattened.

Breast aging is a natural process. If a person is uncomfortable with the changes, they can manage them using cosmetic surgery and topical ointments.

Quitting smoking can help preserve healthy skin and tissue. Leading a healthy lifestyle by getting regular physical activity and eating a balanced diet may help minimize the extent of age-related breast changes.

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