Medically Reviewed on April 24, 2013 by George Krucik, MD, MBA
Written and medically reviewed by the Healthline Editorial Team
Co-developed by:

In Depth: Chest

The exterior of all humans’ chests are basically the same. However, the size, shape, and function of breasts vary significantly between the sexes.

Like its female counterpart, the male breast has a nipple and an areola (the darker pigmented circle around the nipple), but men lack the mammary glands and ducts necessary to produce milk.

A man’s chest—like the rest of his body—is covered with skin that hast two layers.

  • The epidermis is the outermost layer that provides a protective, waterproof seal over the body.
  • The dermis is the under layer that contains sweat glands, hair follicles, blood vessels, and more.

Unlike a woman’s chest, a male chest typically develops some type of thick, dark hair in late puberty that usually doesn’t reach full growth until the early 30s. Like a woman’s breasts, men’s chest hair is a secondary sex characteristic, or a feature that distinguishes the differences between the two sexes.

Despite what some men have been told, black coffee, burnt toast, beer, and other substances won’t give men chest hair or make it curl more. Chest hair growth depends on genetics, age, and hormonal status.

Unlike women, a typical male does not have extensive fat deposits on his chest; in a woman, these protect the mammary glands. Instead, the shape of a man’s chest is determined by the muscles underneath. 

Although atypical, men can develop large mammary glands that result in breast enlargement. This condition is known as gynecomastia. It is more common is adolescent boys but typically disappears after puberty. The cause of gynecomastia is unknown in some people, but it may be caused by steroid abuse, drug interaction, obesity, and hormone imbalance. Treatment depends on the underlying cause.

Underneath the skin, all humans have a rib cage, which protects organs underneath, including the heart, lungs, liver, and more.

Common ailments that affect a man’s chest region include:

  • Heart disease
  • Lung cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Stomach cancer

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