What causes men to have breasts that are considered larger than normal?
If a friend or family member told you that he struggled with gynecomastia, would you know what he meant? And, even if you do know that it refers to having excessive breast tissue in men and boys, do you also know that half of all men experience this at one time or another during their lives?
If you answered “no” to one or both of these questions, you are not alone. Having large breasts is a very common condition in men, but it is not one that is often talked about.
We get the word gynecomastia from the Greek gune, meaning “woman” and mastos, meaning “breast”. Since this literally translates as a description of a man with womanlike breasts, it is not hard to understand why men are reluctant to call attention to the fact that they have this condition. It also explains why, rightly or not, a totally benign condition that does not threaten their health in any way, is one that engenders embarrassment and negatively impacts self-esteem. Many men avoid swimming and other activities that would require them to remove their shirts, and some even confess to feelings of emasculation.
Causes of Enlarged Breasts in Men
Hormones are powerful chemicals that control and regulate a wide range of activities in the body. Men, as well as women, have both sex hormones; testosterone and estrogen. At different times during their lives, these hormones lose what is their normal balance. When levels of estrogen are increased in men, or, conversely, when testosterone drops, one of the results is increased breast size. Typically, this happens at birth, puberty and when a man reaches the age of 50.
Other causes of gynecomastia include:
- Poor nutrition
- Tumors in the adrenal glands, testicles or pituitary
- Kidney or liver failure
- Certain medications, such as anti-androgens, anabolic steroids, androgens, antibiotics, medications for AIDS, anxiety, depression, ulcers, heart disease and cancer
- Alcohol and street drugs, like amphetamines, heroin, methadone and marijuana
- Soaps, lotions and shampoos that contain ingredients like lavender and tea tree oils
Male Breast Reduction Surgery
Often male breast enlargement is a temporary condition that resolves on its own. This is especially true for younger boys and those going through puberty. For those that continue to have excessive breast tissue, breast reduction surgery is an effective procedure for removing the excess fatty and glandular tissue creating the enlargement.
The particular method used for male breast reduction surgery will be determined by your plastic surgeon based on the type of tissue that requires removal. Typically, this will be liposuction, direct tissue excision or a combination of these techniques.
Done on an outpatient basis, the procedure will generally take less than two hours and is usually performed with general anesthesia. Patients may require medication for pain during the days immediately following surgery and there may be swelling as well as some bruising. A compression garment may alleviate some of these symptoms. In general, full recovery and a return to normal activities will take about a month.
Dr. Brian D. Cohen is a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon with extensive training in cosmetic/reconstructive plastic surgery and has had years of experience performing a wide array of cosmetic surgery procedures, specializing in procedures of the face, eyes, nose, breast and body and is known for his exemplary and compassionate care by his patients. Knowing that Dr. Cohen has been selected by his peers in Super Doctors for 8 years in a row in 2020 gives you the confidence that he is highly respected for his performance in his specialty.
Information on locations and office hours for Cohen Plastic Surgery can be found by clicking here.