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Ribs provide the upper chest with a great deal of protection and support. For example, a rib can easily deflect a knife blade as the rib is much harder. A broken rib can be painful, but a damaged organ can be life threatening.
Some people are missing a set of one or two of the bottom two ribs, while other individuals have an extra. However, despite mythical support for the opposite, men and women usually have the same number of ribs.