The condition known by the medical term of gynaecomastia occurs when firm breast tissue forms in males. The name comes from the Greek meaning “female-like-breasts".
The mainstream media have recently named this condition as `man boobs` or `moobs`.
It is important to distinguish between whether you have `real` gynaecomastia and `pseudo-` or `false-` gynaecomastia.
If you have genuine gynaecomastia then the enlarged male breast actually contains breast tissue. This cannot be reduced other than by surgery and is unaltered by vigorous exercises or weight loss.
If on the other hand, the enlarged male breast contains no breast tissue but is simply a fatty enlargement of the male breast then this is false-gynaecomastia which can arise in very overweight or obese men and will reduce when there is an overall weight loss, although fat reducing procedures can also help assist with this.
It is recommended that you seek a medical check to establish the nature of any presenting tissue in the male breast.Read more
Signs vary from a small amount of extra tissue around the nipples to more prominent breasts. It can affect one or both breasts.
Sometimes, the breast tissue can be tender or painful, but this isn’t always the case. The extra tissue is benign (non-cancerous).
Gynaecomastia can have several causes.
Gynaecomastia can be caused by an imbalance between the sex hormones testosterone and oestrogen. Oestrogen causes breast tissue to grow. While all men produce some oestrogen, they usually have much higher levels of testosterone, which stops the oestrogen from causing breast tissue to grow.
If the balance of hormones in his body changes, this can cause a man’s breasts to grow. Sometimes, the cause of this imbalance is unknown.
The growth in breast tissue is not due to extra body fat from being overweight, so losing weight or doing more exercise will not improve the condition.
Gynaecomastia can affect newborn baby boys because oestrogen passes through the placenta from the mother to the baby. This is temporary and will disappear a few weeks after the baby is born.
During puberty, boys’ hormone levels vary. If the level of testosterone drops, oestrogen can cause breast tissue to grow. Many teenage boys have some degree of breast enlargement. Gynaecomastia at puberty usually clears up as boys get older and their hormone levels become more stable.
As men get older, they produce less testosterone. Also, older men tend to have more body fat, and this can cause more oestrogen to be produced. These changes in hormone levels can lead to excess breast tissue growth.
In rare cases, gynaecomastia can be caused by:
If you’re worried about breast tissue growth, see your GP.
If your GP thinks treatment is needed, there are two types of treatment for gynaecomastia:
Procedures such as breast reduction surgery are not usually available on the NHS unless there is a clear medical need for them. For example, if you have had gynaecomastia for a long time, it has not responded to other treatments and it is causing you a lot of distress, your GP may refer you to a plastic surgeon to discuss the possibility of surgery.
Always see your GP if the area is very painful or there is an obvious lump. Sometimes, the lump may need to be removed. It is also possible, although rare, for men to get breast cancer.
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