Breast Disease Gynecomastia

Gynecomastia is the development of abnormally large breasts in males. Breasts develop as a result of excess breast tissue. The condition most often occurs due to an imbalance of hormones during puberty, but gynecomastia can also develop later in life due to certain medical conditions, such as testicular cancer and steroid abuse.

GynecomastiaWhat Causes Gynecomastia Breast Disease?

The majority of gynecomastia cases occur in early puberty, when a boy’s hormones are changing. Males produce estrogen as well as testosterone, although in much lower quantities than women do. During puberty, estrogen levels can become out of balance with testosterone production, causing male breasts to enlarge.

Gynecomastia can be a source of embarrassment and shame for male teenagers. Typically, boys with gynecomastia are concerned about peer response, social difficulties and what enlarged breasts say about their sexuality. However, gynecomastia is actually very common. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (2006), more than 50 percent of males develop some degree of gynecomastia during puberty. The condition is often temporary–gynecomastia during puberty usually clears up within two years.

Outside of puberty, gynecomastia is rare and more commonly present in older men. However, some conditions that affect hormone levels can enlarge adult male breasts. These may include:

  • Castration
  • Genetic abnormalities
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Male breast cancer
  • Testicular cancer.

In rare cases, gynecomastia has been linked to tumor activity unrelated to testicular cancer. Lung cancer, for example, can result in sufficiently high estrogen levels to enlarge male breasts.

Gynecomastia can also occur in newborns. According to the Mayo Clinic (2008), more than half of male infants are born with enlarged breasts. In such cases, gynecomastia is related to the effects of the mother’s estrogen and goes away within a few weeks of birth.

Certain medications, such as antiretroviral, anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications may produce gynecomastia symptoms. Male breasts can also become enlarged as a result of anabolic steroid, heroin, marijuana or alcohol abuse.

Pseudogynecomastia, as the name implies, is “false” gynecomastia. Like gynecomastia, pseudogynecomastia results in enlarged male breasts. However, instead of resulting from hormonal imbalances, enlarged male breasts in this case are the result of excess chest fat.

Symptoms of Gynecomastia Breast Disease

The primary symptom of gynecomastia is the development of excess breast tissue beneath the nipple. Gynecomastia may affect either one or both breasts. The condition may also cause tenderness or pain in breasts. In severe cases, male breasts may begin to resemble pubescent female breasts.

Gynecomastia Treatment and Gynecomastia Surgery

If gynecomastia is causing breast tenderness, applying moist, hot compresses may provide some relief. Although most cases of gynecomastia clear up without treatment, medication may help to correct a persistent hormonal imbalance. In some cases, surgery can correct the problem. Gynecomastia surgery options include liposuction and mastectomy. If gynecomastia is caused by an underlying medical condition, breasts may continue to develop until the underlying condition is treated.

Resources

Mayo Clinic. (2008). Gynecomastia (Enlarged breasts in men). Retrieved November 17, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/gynecomastia/DS00850

University of Maryland Medical Center. (2006). Gynecomastia — Overview. Retrieved November 17, 2010, from http://www.umm.edu/ency/article/003165.htm

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2009). Gynecomastia. Retrieved November 17, 2010, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003165.htm