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Recently, I had a ten-year-old boy who was experiencing breast concerns. Of course, for him it was quite embarrassing and moreso for his parents. Male breast enlargement can start in puberty as hormone levels are shifting. In those cases, it typically doesn’t last long, ending without treatment as hormone levels settle down.
The appearance of enlarged breast tissue in men can be either due to the true enlargement of actual breast tissue or as a result of fat deposited in the pectoral area of the chest. True enlargement of the gland tissue of the breast may occur as a result of hormonal fluctuations or imbalances.
Breast enlargement in men due to this condition is referred to as gynaecomastia. Millions of men and boys know what it’s like to have enlarged breasts (sometimes called man boobs or “moobs”).
In obese or overweight men, however, there can be an increase in fatty tissue over the breast area. This condition, which is not the same as true enlargement of male breast tissue, creates an appearance of enlarged breasts and is known as pseudogynaecomastia. Your breast specialist can usually tell whether or not enlarged breasts in men are due to true gynaecomastia by a clinical breast examination but, in some instance, other tests are required.
True gynaecomastia (enlargement of breast tissue) in men is not uncommon and can be seen in normal, healthy boys during puberty or in men as they age. Though enlarged breasts in men can be embarrassing, it is not a health threat. In some men, however, it can be a sign of other medical conditions such as tumours involving the testes, adrenal glands, or pituitary gland which can produce hormones that alter the male-female hormone balance and may sometimes cause breast enlargement in men.
The greatest risk factor for the development of fatty tissue in the breast area is obesity and weight gain. Obesity is defined by the body mass index; adults with a BMI between 25 and 30 are considered overweight; those with a BMI >30 are considered to be obese.
Of note, certain medications can also cause gynaecomastia. Common culprits include anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids stimulate growth in many types of tissues, especially bone and muscle. Some heart medications as well as prostate cancer drugs can also contribute to gynaecomastia.
In many cases, discontinuing the offending drug and switching to another helps reduce enlarged breasts. Excessive alcohol use too can contribute to gynaecomastia. In many cases, the exact cause isn’t clear. It’s wise to make an appointment with your breast specialist to be certain, even if your male breast enlargement hasn’t bothered you a lot.
Avril Harry RN, BSc Oncology Nursing Breast Care Nurse
Pink Hibiscus Breast Health Specialists
5 Adam Smith Square, Woodbrook
1 868 627 1010 (p)
1 868 625 1020 (f)
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