1. Health
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

The Third Nipple – A Physical Accessory From Birth

By

Updated May 20, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Female Mammary Milk Lines

Female Mammary Milk Lines

Art © Pam Stephan

Polythelia: Extra Nipples:

Extra nipples can develop while a child is still an embryo. These extra nipples are located along the milk lines and are sometimes accompanied by extra breast tissue. The technical term for extra nipples is polythelia, and the related condition of extra breast tissue is known as polymastia.

Extra nipples, if they are connected with mammary glands, may be able to produce breast milk after pregnancy. Sometimes called accessory nipples or third nipples, these often look like moles or freckles, and don't always have a connection with breast tissue or milk ducts.

Common Names for Extra Nipples:

Beyond the terms polythelia, accessory nipple and third nipple, you may hear the following:
  • supernumerary nipple
  • triple nipple
  • vestigial nipple
  • witch's nipple

Who Gets Third Nipples:

Men and women may have an extra nipple. It is a fairly common abnormality that sometimes occurs in families, but is more likely to develop at random.

Anne Boleyn, wife of King Henry VIII of England, was said to have had a third nipple. Scaramanga, an infamous Bond villain, had an accessory nipple and this was what made him easy to identify. Scientists named the Scaramanga gene after him; it is this gene that produces a protein called Neuregulin-3 (NRG3), which provides a signal to embryonic cells telling them to become breast cells.

Accessory Nipples, Breast Cancer, and Other Conditions:

If you have one or more extra nipples, you may wonder if this increases your risk for breast cancer. Any breast tissue you have, whether it appears in the standard location or elsewhere, is vulnerable to the same diseases that can affect typical breast tissue.

The presence of extra nipples is sometimes linked to heart defects and kidney disease. Paget's disease of the nipple can sometimes show up in your groin area (lower end of the milk lines) where it is called extramammary Paget's disease (EMPD).

Care of Extra Nipples:

In most people, extra nipples are benign and may never be noticed. But if you know that you have an extra nipple, do see your doctor if it changes, has discharge, or develops a lump or rash. If you have an extra nipple and it bothers you, it can be surgically removed, just like a mole.

Sources:

Dermoscopic features of accessory nipples. Murat Orhan Oztas, MD, and Mehmet Ali Gurer, MD. International Journal of Dermatology, Volume 46 Issue 10, Pages 1067 - 1068. Published Online: 1 Oct 2007.

Familial polythelia over three generations with polymastia in the youngest girl. Galli-Tsinopoulou A; Krohn C; Schmidt H. Eur J Pediatr. 2001 Jun;160(6):375-7.

The role of NRG3 in mammary development. Beatrice A Howard. J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia. 2008 Jun;13(2):195-203. Epub 2008 Apr 17.

Variations in Development. Variations Apparent at Birth; Pp. 51- 53. Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book. Susan M. Love, M.D. Third Edition, 2000.

Related Video
Breastfeeding: Sore Nipple Remedies
  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Breast Cancer
  4. Breast Cancer Basics
  5. Nipple and Areola Health
  6. Third Nipple – Breast Tissue and a Third Nipple

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.