Melanin of the nipple areola complex

J Biol Regul Homeost Agents. 2017 Jan-Mar;31(1):237-238.


Biological pigments or biochromes are ubiquitous in animals, plants, and simpler organisms such as fungi and bacteria. They serve a wide spectrum of functions from photosynthesis, camouflage, mimicry, photo protection from the environment to attracting mates. The human female nipple areola complex (NAC) is a highly-pigmented area. Currently, the prevailing theory as to the evolution of the pigmented human NAC is based on infant recognition of breast feeding latching zone; however, due to the protruding shape of the nipple and surrounding breast, the authors of this letter believe that the evolutionary advantage of the pigmented NAC has a direct physiological function, namely the initiation of involution at the end of the infant lactation period.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Adult
  • Breast Feeding
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Mammary Glands, Human / anatomy & histology
  • Mammary Glands, Human / physiology*
  • Mammary Glands, Human / radiation effects
  • Melanins / biosynthesis*
  • Nipples / anatomy & histology
  • Nipples / physiology*
  • Nipples / radiation effects
  • Pigmentation / physiology*
  • Ultraviolet Rays


  • Melanins