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March 15, 2024

What Are the Most Common Gynecomastia Causes?

Written by: Dr. Dahlia Rice. Posted in: Blog

Gynecomastia Causes

Gynecomastia causes can be difficult to pinpoint without testing and a doctor’s help. Most of the time, however, the root cause has something to do with the patient having too much estrogen in their body and/or not enough testosterone. Estrogen is a female hormone, and testosterone is a male hormone.

This hormonal imbalance often has further underlying causes. For example, a patient may be taking a medication that is causing hormone changes that affect their free testosterone. Alternatively, medical conditions themselves can cause hormonal dysfunction.

In this article, we’ll be discussing the main causes of gynecomastia. But first, it’s important to understand the condition itself.

What Is Gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia is a medical condition that manifests as enlarged breast tissue in males. Naturally, men don’t have the substantial amount of breast tissue that women do naturally.

When overdevelopment of the male breast tissue occurs, men can feel self-conscious, and their self-esteem may be lowered. This can negatively affect other areas of their life, causing larger problems. Moreover, sometimes the underlying cause of gynecomastia is a serious medical condition that causes breast pain and needs to be addressed on its own.

What Does Gynecomastia Look Like?

Gynecomastia tends to look like excess skin, fat, and female breast tissue on the male breast. This means that the overall size of the patient’s breasts will be larger than average. Sometimes, this is called having breast buds.

These breast buds may feel like small, firm nubs that usually lie directly beneath the nipples. One or both breasts may be affected. Often, the nipples, areolae, and breast tissue looks and feels soft, swollen, and not well-defined.

What Causes Gynecomastia?What Causes Gynecomastia

Before diving into the main causes of adult gynecomastia, it’s important to make a few notes on the causes of gynecomastia in younger males.

Preteen and teenage boys, for example, quite commonly develop gynecomastia as they go through puberty. This is sometimes called pubertal gynecomastia.

Breast growth in the form of small breast buds may appear at the onset of puberty and can last for one or two years before naturally disappearing.

Even newborn baby boys can have gynecomastia. This manifests as small breast buds that are actually caused by the amount of estrogen in their bodies (provided by their mothers in the womb). At around six months to one year of age, these breast buds usually disappear naturally.

Neither of these situations necessitates care or treatment. These are normal stages of hormonal development and growth. In rare cases, persistent pubertal gynecomastia may occur and would need to be treated, but this is a rare occurrence.

Adult onset gynecomastia, on the other hand, is abnormal. If your body composition has not significantly changed in any other ways (you haven’t gained a significant amount of weight, for example), and you are experiencing gynecomastia symptoms, you should see your doctor.

Causes of gynecomastia in males include the following.

Medical Conditions

Hormonal dysfunction is often caused by certain medical conditions such as male breast cancer. Prostate cancer, cancer of the adrenal glands (adrenal tumors), testicular cancer (testicular tumors), liver cancer, pituitary gland cancer, and lung cancer may cause the suffering patient to develop gynecomastia.

Cirrhosis, kidney failure, klinefelter syndrome, primary or secondary hypogonadism, and other medical conditions have been linked to gynecomastia as well.

Drug and Alcohol U and Abuse

Substantial drug and/or alcohol use is also related to male breast enlargement. Gynecomastia has been linked to the use of heroin, meth, alcohol, and marijuana.

Use of Certain Medications

Certain heart medicines, anabolic steroids, ulcer treatment, antidepressants (like Valium and tricyclic antidepressants), chemotherapy drugs, calcium channel blockers, and other substances may have gynecomastia as a side effect too.

Taking human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is commonly associated with gynecomastia, for example. This drug may be taken to improve testosterone deficiency, improve sexual function, or address hypogonadism.

Hormone Changes in Adulthood

It can also occur that older men may experience gynecomastia due to natural fluctuations in their hormone levels as they grow older. Changes in luteinizing hormone levels, for example, can lead to irregular breast tissue growth.  As men get older they decrease testosterone production.

Overweight and Obesity

Lastly, it’s not uncommon to experience abnormal breast development when a patient is overweight or obese. If the patient has more body fat in general, chances are, this fat may accumulate in the breasts.

In this case, the issue is not really gynecomastia. Treatment would be different than with true gynecomastia related to a hormone imbalance.

Food That Causes Gynecomastia

Can You Treat Gynecomastia?

Yes, enlarged and swollen breast tissue in males can be addresssed in treating gynecomastia with surgery.

What Is Gynecomastia Surgery?

Gynecomastia is a surgical treatment aimed at reducing the size of the breasts in men. In particular, it aims to remove the glandular breast tissue often located in a solid, firm nub beneath the nipple.

This is done through a small incision, usually located beneath the breast or around the edge of the areola. Liposuction can also be used to suction out excess fat.

FAQ: Gynecomastia Causes and Treatments

Can gynecomastia go away?

Yes, absolutely. Sometimes, the issue of gynecomastia will go away on its own. This is usually the case when young men enter puberty and sometimes in adult man who have this condition for a short time and then it goes away, and they never find out why they had it (idiopathic gynecomastia).

If your gynecomastia is persistent, however, it’s worth looking into gynecomastia surgery. Naturally, you want to know the underlying cause and treat that if needed. Gynecomastia surgery can directly remove the excess breast tissue, skin, and fat on your breasts and give you back your natural masculine contours.

Is there a food that causes gynecomastia?

Some sources claim that soy-based foods — including soy milk, tofu, soybeans, etc. — can contribute to gynecomastia. Others claim that eating lots of processed foods and drinking alcohol can also cause gynecomastia.

Call Today to Set Up Your Consultation Appointment

There’s no reason to live uncomfortably with gynecomastia.

If you have questions about your gynecomastia and are considering surgical treatment, please call our office today to schedule a consultation appointment with board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Dahlia Rice.


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