Gynecomastia: A Look at Male Breast Enlargement

Gynecomastia Can Occur at any Age

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Gynecomastia is breast development that occurs in males. It can happen at any age and for a number of different reasons.

Breast Growth in Infants

Breast growth (one or both breasts) is very common in newborns and is, in most cases, the result of exposure to the mother's hormones via breast milk. Gynecomastia lasts for a few days or a couple of weeks. Sometimes, in rare cases, it can continue up until the child is 2 years old.

Talk to your pediatrician if you notice any seemingly-abnormal breast development in your infant. They will be able to offer information and advice and monitor the situation.

Breast Growth in Male Teens

During the teen years, the hormonal changes of puberty can sometimes cause one or both breasts to become enlarged and tender. While embarrassing, this condition usually disappears after a few months.

Your family doctor can make a firm diagnosis and monitor progress. In very rare cases, surgery can be used to remove breast tissue if the breasts are abnormally big and causing psychological problems.

Male Adult Breast Growth

Increasing breast size in adult males is almost always due to weight gain, which results in fat laying down over the pectoral region. If male breasts suddenly increase in size and/or become painful, however, then medical intervention is required. In old age, hormonal imbalances may be the cause.

There are a few medical conditions, some of them requiring treatment, that can cause gynecomastia, so an accurate diagnosis will tell you and your doctor if you need to treat an underlying condition.

Possible medical causes of male adult breast growth include kidney failure, chronic liver disease, tumors, genetic disorders such as Klinefelter's syndrome, side effects of some therapeutic drugs, and exposure to androgen hormones taken by some bodybuilders.

Does Marijuana Cause Gynecomastia?

You may have heard that smoking marijuana regularly causes gynecomastia in men. Although the image of a male weed smoker growing breasts is striking, it's not evidence based. Of note in 2013, Dr. Anthony Youn, a plastic surgeon and contributor at CNN, fueled this controversy when he claimed that marijuana could cause gynecomastia and recalled telling a male patient to stop smoking weed if he wanted to get rid of his enlarged breasts. Youn's claim was subsequently refuted by other news agencies.

Specifically, as far back as 1977, researchers have noted that gynecomastia is not associated with marijuana use. Specifically, in a small study, 11 US Army soldiers with gynecomastia were matched with 11 control participants who didn't have gynecomastia. The researchers found that there was no difference between the 2 groups with respect to marijuana use.

Although limited research suggests that marijuana may disrupt hormone levels in those who smoke the stuff, there's no proof that marijuana messes with estrogen thus causing growth of breasts.

 

Obviously, as with any drug, marijuana does have certain effects on the body; however, gynecomastia doesn't seem to be one of these effects.

Treatment

Most cases of gynecomastia will resolve themselves, especially in infant and teenagers, as noted above. Older men may have an underlying medical condition that requires investigation and treatment. Surgery to remove excessive breast tissue may also be considered.

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