Healthy lives for young people
My Body

Breasts and Chests

Breasts and chests come in all shapes and sizes, but it’s really common to worry that your chest or breasts aren’t ‘normal’. We teamed up with CoppaFeel! to provide you with the information you need to get to know your breasts or chest and learn what is normal for you. 

Breasts, chests, boobs, pecs – whatever you call them, they come in all shapes, sizes and colours. 

Everyone has breast tissue, no matter their gender or sex assigned at birth. However this tissue presents differently depending on what sex hormones you have. 

What’s the difference between breasts and chests?

On this page, when we talk about ‘breasts’ we are talking about the muscles, fat and breast tissue of people whose dominant sex hormone is oestrogen. When we talk about ‘chests’ we will sometimes be talking about the muscles, fat and breast tissue of people whose dominant sex hormone is testosterone, and sometimes using the word to talk about the chest area more generally. However, the way people talk about their breasts and chests is personal to them, and may depend on their gender identity. Read more about gender identity.


This page has been developed with support from CoppaFeel!, the first breast cancer charity in the UK to solely create awareness amongst young people. You can find out more about their work and get lots more useful information and support at www.coppafeel.org


Breast and Chest Development

Puberty

A lot of people first start to notice changes in their chest between the ages of 10 and 14, but it can happen earlier or later than this.

As part of puberty, sex hormones are released and begin to cause physical changes. Sex hormones are chemicals in our bodies which produce ‘male’ and ‘female’ characteristics during puberty. 

  • The ‘male’ hormone, testosterone, is produced in the testes, which means it is usually people with penises and testicles who produce more testosterone. 
  • The ‘female’ hormone, oestrogen, is produced in the ovaries, which means it is usually people with vaginas and vulvas who produce more oestrogen. 

Most people have at least a little bit of both hormones because there are various other places in the body that these hormones are produced in smaller amounts. 

Some people are intersex, which means they have a variation of sex characteristics (genitals, chromosomes, internal reproductive organs, etc.) that don’t align with traditional ideas of male/female bodies. Some people may have hormone therapy as part of their gender transition, which will affect how their body changes. Read more about transitioning.  

Breasts

It can take up to five years in total before breasts are fully grown, and they may change shape and size throughout a person’s life. 

If pregnancy happens, breasts begin to produce milk to feed the child when it is born. 

Chests

For people whose bodies produce mostly testosterone, their chests will develop by growing more muscle, specifically the pectoral muscles, or ‘pecs’. 

Am I Normal?

Everyone is different and unique, and no two people’s chests or breasts look or feel the same. 

As with all parts of the body, it’s common to sometimes wish yours looked like somebody else’s. At some point in their life, many people may have wished their breasts or chests looked different, but there’s no such thing as ‘normal’ when it comes to bodies, including breasts and chests. 

With the breasts of people whose bodies are producing oestrogen, it is common for: 

  • One breast to develop faster than the other. Breasts can keep developing until 18 or beyond.
  • One breast to be bigger than the other.
  • Breasts to change throughout your life and change depending on your menstrual cycle. Many people experience sudden pre-period breast growth, swelling or breast pain that settles down after your period has ended, but if you find your symptoms persist, book an appointment with your GP.
  • Breasts to come in various shapes and sizes, be far apart, close together, pointy, round, and/or pointing in two different directions! All variations are wonderful. 

With the chests of people whose bodies are producing testosterone, it is common for: 

  • Levels of testosterone to drop at various points during puberty, which can result in oestrogen levels making breast tissue grow. Breasts can feel tender as the breast tissue grows, and one may grow faster or bigger than the other. 
  • Chest to grow broader.
  • Pectoral muscles in the chest to grow. The size of pecs will vary from person to person. 
  • Hair to grow on the chest. Levels of hair on the chest can vary from no hair to lots of it!

Laura Dodsworth’s Bare Reality project shows 100 breasts and chests from ages 19-101 with sizes from AAA to K. This project shows the fabulous variety of breasts and chests through these wonderful photographs.

Take a look at CoppaFeel!’s A-Z of Boob for information on how different everyone’s breasts and chests are, and how to get to know yours so you can look after your health. You can read more about breast and chest health here.

Try not to compare yourself to other people as no one’s body is the same as anyone else’s – and that’s a good thing!

Nipples 

During puberty, nipples can be sensitive as they grow and develop. They usually become less sensitive after the early stages of puberty. Nipple sensitivity can then fluctuate, for example with your menstrual cycle or other changes in hormones. For lots of people, nipple sensitivity means they can feel good to be touched during sexual activity.

Nipples may be darker or paler than the rest of your skin and lots of people have hair growing around them. The area around your nipples (areola) may be large or small. 

There are so many different ways that nipples can look. They can be flat, very pointy, bumpy, inverted or look like a dimple, they can stick out (become erect) when they’re feeling cold or sexually excited.

All variations are perfectly normal.

Pleasure

Breasts and chests are an erogenous zone, which means they can feel pleasurable to be touched. 

What are erogenous zones?

An erogenous zone is an area of your body which is very sensitive, and can produce a sexual response when it is touched. An important part of discovering your sexuality is learning which parts of your body feel good to be touched. 
 
Common examples of erogenous zones for people with penises include the penis, scrotum, anus, prostate and nipples. Common examples of erogenous zones for people with vulvas include the vulva, vagina, anus and nipples. They can also include, but are not limited to, other areas of your body such as your neck, ears, back, hips and thighs.

Learn more about penises and testicles.
Learn more about vaginas and vulvas.

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