As you age, the tissue and structure of your breasts begin to change. This is due to differences in your reproductive hormone levels caused by the natural process of aging. As a result of these changes, your breasts begin to lose their firmness and fullness. Also with age comes an increased risk of developing growths in the breast such as fibroids, cysts, and cancer. Keep in mind that women of any age can develop these conditions, however.
Natural decline of estrogen
One of the main causes of aging changes in the breasts is a natural decline of the female reproductive hormone estrogen. This reduced amount of estrogen causes the skin and connective tissue of the breast to become less hydrated, making it less elastic. With less elasticity, the breasts lose firmness and fullness and can develop a stretched and looser appearance. It’s not uncommon for an older woman to have a change in her cup size. Dense breast tissue is replaced by fatty tissue as the aging process continues.
Most changes in the breast due to age occur around the time of menopause. Menopause is a natural process during which a woman ceases ovulation and menstruation, and after which she can no longer have children. This transition normally occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. A woman is officially in menopause once she has not had a period for 12 consecutive months.
Women who have had their ovaries surgically removed can have changes in their breasts at any time due to the loss of hormones.
Common breast changes
Common changes that occur in the breast due to age include:
- stretch marks
- downward pointing nipples
- an elongated, stretched, or flattened appearance
- wider space between the breasts
- lumpiness, which may be due to benign fibrocystic changes in the breast or serious conditions such as breast cancer
Aging changes in the breasts are visible upon physical examination. Puckering, redness, or thickening of breast skin, a pulled in nipple, nipple discharge, breast pain, or hard lumps are not considered normal aging changes. See your doctor if you notice any of these conditions, or if one breast looks significantly different than the other.
Treating and managing breast changes
Many breast changes are a normal part of the aging process. If you are significantly distressed by the changes in your breast tissue, you may want to consider cosmetic surgery. Cosmetic surgery can replace the fullness of the breasts as well as the position of the nipples.
When it comes to stretch marks, there is no definitive treatment. Some topical products may be useful in minimizing their appearance though. In some studies, the herb Centella asiatica along with the prescription medication tretinoin has been effective in reducing the appearance of stretch marks. Laser treatments are available as well.
Discuss these options with your doctor to find out which is best for you.
There’s no sure way to prevent your breasts from being affected by changes due to natural aging. Not smoking or quitting smoking is important for good skin and tissue health, however. Being as kind to your body as possible, throughout your life, is important too. By getting adequate and regular sleep, eating a healthy diet, and participating in regular exercise, you can do your best to promote a gentle aging process.