But why on earth do men have nipples? They have no use, except maybe the fact that they'd look pretty weird without them. But aside from that, one would think they would have disappeared over the course of evolution.
To demystify the male nipple, we must return to the very origin. A process that starts well before birth…
Placed at the first moments of life
Everything happens in the first hours after fertilisation, during the first stages of embryo development. Until a certain point, boys and girls evolve in the same way and therefore both develop nipples. ‘To put it simply, men and women are all built from the same genetic material,’ says Ian Tattersall, a paleoanthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York in the United States.
From six to seven weeks of gestation, however, differences begin to appear. This is the fault of some of the Y chromosome genes, which boys exclusively have. These typically male genes gradually induce the development of the testes, which then secrete testosterone.
This masculine characteristics develop, the genitals begin to form, while the beginnings of a future female identity are stopped. A sudden stop that does not make the nipples disappear however. Once they've formed, there's no getting rid of them.
Useless, therefore indispensable!
Why did Mother Nature decide to do it this way? Well, men's nipples are useless, certainly, but they are not unfavourable either. ‘There is no real metabolic cost to having nipples,’ Tattersall explains. Not useful but not embarrassing or deleterious, either, so why then bother to eliminate them?
A fantasy that can unfortunately sometimes cost dearly for some unlucky men. Contrary to popular belief, breast cancer is not only the prerogative of the fairer sex, and some men also develop breast tumours. Fortunately, the risks are low, male cancers account for less than 1% of cases, and are minimal when men lead healthy lives.
Obesity and alcohol consumption are the main aggravating factors. Eating balanced meals and drinking moderately are the secrets to keeping the nipples in top form! Just common sense…
So there you have it - we were hoping for a more fun explanation too...