Have you ever gone to the gym or the beach only to hesitate when it’s time to take off your shirt? Nearly 40 percent of men are affected by enlarged breast tissue, a condition known as gynecomastia. It can be an embarrassing condition that can impact quality of life and self-esteem.
What Causes “Man Boobs”?
There are several misconceptions when it comes to overdevelopment of male breast tissue. Gynecomastia is triggered by hormonal imbalances, namely a decrease in testosterone or an increase in estrogen in the male body. A hormonal imbalance and genetics are the most common reasons for man boobs, but there are other surprising contributors to look out for:
- Genetics: If you look at the chests of the men in your family and then look at your own, you will likely notice some similarities. Excess male breast tissue that develops during the teenage years—especially in relatively fit young men—are often caused by genetics. There is no way to prevent genetic gynecomastia, but there are options later in life that can improve the shape and prominence of your chest (keep reading!).
- Beer: Relaxing with a beer can feel like the epitome of manhood, but it might not be a great choice for your physique. While some articles have been making the rounds claiming that hops, a natural source of phytoestrogen, may lead to gynecomastia, nothing has been proven yet. What is known is that the calories in your favorite IPA or stout can increase the amount of adipose (fat) tissue on your chest.
- Marijuana: As states reconsider their medical and recreational marijuana laws, it’s important to also consider the physical ramifications of consuming the drug. Researchers are still studying how the active ingredients in marijuana impact the body, but it is known that THC may decrease testosterone levels, which can in turn lead to increased development of glandular breast tissue in men.
- Bodybuilding: Excessive bodybuilding or weightlifting can increase muscle mass in the chest, leading to a larger chest that may resemble women’s breasts. Bodybuilders who take anabolic steroids are at particular risk for gynecomastia, which is why it’s critical to have your hormone levels frequently monitored.
- Medication side effects: Certain medications, including some blood pressure and ulcer drugs, can contribute to gynecomastia.
How to Treat Gynecomastia
It’s important to understand that there may be two separate factors contributing to the appearance of overly large male breasts: glandular (breast) tissue and fatty tissue. Many patients have a combination of both, and your unique circumstances will dictate which course of treatment is best suited to you.
Men with excess fatty breast tissue can be effectively treated with liposuction. By using a small, specialized tube called a cannula, excess fat is removed from the area and the chest is contoured to a slimmer, more masculine appearance.
For men who have an excess of glandular tissue, a combination of liposuction and surgical excision of tissue may be necessary to achieve the best results. Some men may also require excision of excess skin or a male chest lift.
Whether you’ve been concerned with the appearance of your chest for years or are just now discovering a change in your body, taking steps to reduce male breast tissue can greatly improve your confidence. If you are in or around Paramus, give us a call. Board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Parker can evaluate your concerns and help you explore your treatment options for improving your chest contour for a sleeker, sharper appearance for years to come.