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 breasts, such as fibroids, cysts, and cancer. Keep in mind that women of any age can develop these conditions. Give yourself regular breast self-exams to check for any growths.

Here’s what you need to know about aging changes in the breasts.

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 to change your cup size as you age.

Dense breast tissue is replaced by fatty tissue as the aging process continues.

Menopause

Most aging changes in the breasts occur around the time of menopause.

Menopause is a natural process during which ovulation and menstruation stop. This transition normally occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. You’re officially in menopause when you haven’t had a period for 12 consecutive months.

Other causes

Those who have had their ovaries surgically removed can have changes in their breasts at any time due to the loss of hormones.

Common changes that occur in the breasts 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 like breast cancer

But some changes aren’t normal. See your doctor if you notice any of the following:

  • puckering
  • redness
  • thickening of breast skin
  • a pulled in nipple
  • nipple discharge
  • breast pain
  • hard lumps
  • one breast looks significantly different than the other

Many breast changes are a normal part of the aging process.

If you’re 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.

If you want to treat stretch marks, there’s no current definitive treatment. Some topical products may be useful in minimizing their appearance.

In some studies, the herb Centella asiatica and the prescription medication tretinoin were found to be 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.

Remember, these aging changes in your breasts are normal. You don’t have to treat them if you don’t want to. Instead, embrace them!

There’s no sure way to prevent aging-related changes in your breasts.

But not smoking — or quitting smoking if you currently do — is important for good skin and tissue health.

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.