Milk-producing gland of female mammals, usually present but undeveloped and nonfunctional in males. Regulated by the endocrine system, it is derived from a modification of sweat glands. The mammary gland of a woman who has not borne children consists of a conical disk of glandular tissue, encased in fat that gives the breast its shape. The gland is made up of lobes drained by separate ducts that meet at the nipple. Pregnancy causes the cells lining the lobes to multiply, and lactation begins in response to hormones released starting at the time of birth. At the end of lactation, the glands return almost to their state before pregnancy. After menopause, they atrophy and are largely replaced by connective tissue and fat.
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