Men who have excessive breast tissue are often the butt of jokey comments about ‘man boobs’ but for those who are affected by this it is not a laughing matter. It can help to know what exactly is behind the condition of gynecomastia and why some are affected but not others.
There can be several causes for this condition including anabolic steroid use, medications and simply excess weight or ageing but the main culprit is hormone imbalance. Some men have a higher level of oestrogen coupled with a low level of testosterone. This imbalance can start during puberty or it can be triggered by medication, illness or as a side effect of drug abuse. The excess oestrogen, which is the ‘female hormone’, sends a signal to the body telling it to develop breast tissue, often along with excess fat around the middle of the body.
Common Causes of Gynecomastia
Obesity is one of the biggest health problems facing society today and is the root cause of many different diseases and conditions. It can also be a major cause in the development of excess breast tissue in men and once again it is the influence of a certain hormone that triggers gynecomastia. Fat tissue produces a hormone called leptin, a natural protein which helps to regulate the energy stored in your fat cells. The levels of leptin increase the more weight you gain and this translates into a reduction in testosterone.
Anabolic steroids are of course synthetic versions of testosterone and these work through conversion into higher levels of oestrogen.
Some anti-hair loss medications can cause gynecomastia due to their testosterone blocking action. There are a whole host of other medicines that can cause or contribute towards gynecomastia including anti-depressants, digitalis, valium and some illegal drugs like marijuana and heroin.
Medical illnesses such as hyperthyroidism, kidney or liver disease such as cirrhosis can disrupt the normal production of hormones within the body. Some undetected tumours particularly testicular and pituitary tumours can also affect hormone production. There is something called Klinefelter Syndrome, an abnormal combination of the sex chromosomes which can cause gynecomastia and breast cancer in men.
What Should I Do?
In some cases, it can be a matter of simply losing weight or changing habits but if you are worried or if you notice any unusual symptoms like lumps, breast tenderness or changes in appearance then of course you should consult your doctor for a diagnosis and advice. For those struggling, there are surgical options, and we’d be only too happy to discuss these with you, so don’t hesitate to get in touch.