World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Lactiferous duct

Article Id: WHEBN0003585948
Reproduction Date:

Title: Lactiferous duct  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Breast, Breast reduction, Mastopexy, Mammary gland, Breast augmentation
Collection: Breast Anatomy
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Lactiferous duct

Lactiferous duct
The Breast: cross-section scheme of the mammary gland.
1. Chest wall
2. Pectoralis muscles
3. Lobules
4. Nipple
5. Areola
6. Milk duct
7. Fatty tissue
8. Skin
Latin ductus lactiferi, tubulus lactiferi
Anatomical terminology

Lactiferous ducts form a tree branched system connecting the lobules of the mammary gland to the tip of the nipple. They are also referred to as galactophores, galactophorous ducts, mammary ducts, mamillary ducts and milk ducts. They are the structures which carry milk toward the nipple in a lactating female.


  • Structure 1
  • Function 2
  • Clinical significance 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5


Lactiferous ducts are lined by a columnar epithelium supported by myoepithelial cells. When a woman is not lactating, the lactiferous duct is frequently blocked by a keratin plug. This plug prevents bacteria from entering the duct in non-lactating women. Prior to 2005, it was thought within the areola the lactiferous duct would dilate to form the lactiferous sinus in which milk supposedly accumulates between breastfeeding sessions. However new research suggests that lactiferous sinus does not exist.[1]


The columnar epithelium plays a key role in balancing milk production, milk stasis and resorption. The cells of the columnar epithelium form tight junctions which are regulated by hormones and local factors like pressure and casein content. Prolactin and/or placental lactogen are required for tight junction closure while progesterone is the main hormone preventing closure before birth.[2][3]

Clinical significance

The majority of breast diseases either originate from lactiferous ducts or are closely related. The high susceptibility to benign and malignant diseases is in part a consequence of the cycling hormonal growth stimulation resulting in a high cell turnover and accumulation of defects and complicated hormonal equilibrium which is highly sensible to disturbance.

See also


  1. ^ Ramsay, D. T.; Kent, J. C.; Hartmann, R. A.; Hartmann, P. E. (2005). "Anatomy of the lactating human breast redefined with ultrasound imaging". Journal of Anatomy 206 (6): 525–534.  
  2. ^ Nguyen, D. A.; Parlow, A. F.; Neville, M. C. (2001). "Hormonal regulation of tight junction closure in the mouse mammary epithelium during the transition from pregnancy to lactation". The Journal of endocrinology 170 (2): 347–356.  
  3. ^ Nguyen, D. A.; Neville, M. C. (1998). "Tight junction regulation in the mammary gland". Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia 3 (3): 233–246.  
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.