What the Color of Your Areola Tells About You

Why is the areola darker than the rest of your breast tissue? In case you're ever a contestant on "Jeopardy," here's the answer.

The areola is the area around the nipple, and it may be tan, beige, pink, dark brown, or some other shade that's darker than the rest of your breast tissue. Mother Nature adds some extra color here for a reason. Initially, newborns can only distinguish light shades from dark ones, so having this natural pointer to the nipple helps the baby latch on and get fed. Clever, huh?

Women who have never been pregnant often have very pale areolas that are close to the color of their nipple and the surrounding breast skin. As pregnancy progresses, however, and upon giving birth, the areola darkens and expands in diameter.

Sometimes, even when a woman is not pregnant, the nipple and areola on one breast may become discolored, dry, and scaly, or appear different in some way from its mate. These symptoms should prompt a call to your doctor for a clinical breast exam because they might be a sign of Paget's disease - breast cancer of the nipple area.

Once a woman has given birth and stopped breastfeeding, the size of the areola will most likely return to its pre-pregnancy size. The color may also become somewhat lighter but usually does not return to its original paler shade.

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