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Private parts

See facts about male and female genitals and breasts

  • During puberty, the female body produces the hormone oestrogen, which causes the breasts to grow.

  • Puberty in girls typically begins between the ages of 8 and 15.

  • It takes about five years for the breasts to reach their ‘final’ size.

  • Very few breasts are symmetrical: most women have one larger than the other or one that hangs lower than the other.

  • Breasts are made up of between 15 and 20 ‘lobes’ each containing clusters of glands that produce milk. The remainder of the breast is made up of fatty and connective tissue.

  • The size of the breast does not affect a woman’s ability to breastfeed.

  • In later life, the glands in the breasts shrink and the fat content increases. This can cause some women’s breasts to grow while others may notice a reduction in size.

  • The dark area of skin surrounding the nipple is called the areola and this often darkens further during pregnancy.

  • Like breasts, nipples come in all shapes and sizes and can be pointed, flat or even inverted.

  • Some women experience pain and tenderness in their breasts around the time of their period. This is linked to hormonal changes in the body.

  • There is no ‘normal’ shape for breasts. However, the NHS advises that women should be aware of any sudden changes in the shape, texture or size of their breasts and voice any concerns to their GP.

  • Breast cancer accounts for 1 in 3 cases of cancer in women.

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