Gynecomastia is breast enlargement in boys or men due to a benign (non-cancerous) increase in breast tissue. This condition results from an imbalance between the hormones testosterone and estrogen. Although gynecomastia doesn’t cause health problems, it can make breasts tender.
Gynecomastia is common in newborn boys due to exposure to their mother’s estrogen. It can also occur in boys going through puberty. In both cases, it usually goes away on its own. In adults, it’s most common in men over the age of 50 years. It may affect only one, or both breasts.
A number of factors can cause enlarged breast tissue in men, however, sometimes no cause is found:
Your doctor will ask questions about your medical conditions and usual medicines, including over-the-counter medicines. In a physical exam, your doctor will check your breast tissue to see if the enlargement is gynecomastia or another condition. Other causes of enlarged breasts include fat deposits, benign tumors, and fluid-filled pouches (cysts). The doctor will look for signs of breast cancer, a rare condition in men. Your doctor also will check your testicles for size and for the presence of a tumor.
In some cases, no treatment is needed. In other cases, the treatment depends on the factors causing the enlargement. If a medicine or other substance is the cause, your doctor may recommend you stop using it, or switch you to a different medicine. If a disease is the cause, you will be treated for the disease as needed.
Medicines that block the effect of estrogen in breast tissue (especially for men who have had gynecomastia for a short time). These medicines, however, are not approved for this indication by the FDA. Please talk to your physician about what this means.
Surgery to remove breast tissue (especially for men who have a lot of breast tissue or who have had gynecomastia for a long time).
The Hormone Health Network is the public education affiliate of the Endocrine Society dedicated to helping both patients and doctors find information on the prevention, treatment and cure of hormone-related conditions.
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