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Jul 12

Man boobs (gynecomastia) could indicate serious health problems – TheHealthSite

A shapely pair of breasts is a thing of great beauty, except when its on a mans chest! Sometimes a sedentary lifestyle or underlying medical condition can cause mens pectoral areas to have the appearance of breasts. This unsightly appearance of pronounced chest flab can cause body-image and confidence issues in men. In medical terms, the condition is known as gynecomastia from the Greek terms gyneco- meaning woman and masto- which means breasts. But it is often known by its colloquial and often pejorative term man boobs or moobs for short.

(Read: How to get rid of man boobs or moobs)

What is gynecomastia?Gynecomastia is the benign enlargement of breast glandular tissue seen in men. Here is the bad news; the problem is quite prolific among men and studies say that at least 30 percent men will be afflicted by the bane of gynecomastia during their lifetime. There are two types of gynecomastia:

False or pseudogynecomastia- where subcutaneous fat (fat under the skin) causes the chest to have a breast-like appearance. True gynecomastia- where actual breast tissues develop in the pectoral region.

(Read: Yoga asanas to get rid of man boobs)

What causes gynecomastia?The primary causes of true gynecomastia are: The imbalance between the female hormone oestrogen and the male hormone androgen Increased production oestrogen than androgen Less production of androgen

What are the health hazards of having gynecomastia?Man boobs are basically benign conditions, which means by itself gynecomastia cannot cause any health hazards. Best case scenario will be staying away from tight-fitting t-shirts for a long time, and the worst? It can severely dent your self-esteem, cause anxiety problems and fear of malignant diseases.

But be warned! Man boobs can indicate a serious, underlying health condition, especially if you have true gynecomastia. If you suspect abnormal swelling in your pectoral region, seek medical help right away!

Following are some of the health conditions associated with true gynecomastia:

Cirrhosis or liver diseases: Hepatic cirrhosis or liver cirrhosis is often listed as a cause of gynecomastia. This is mainly because the liver is responsible for clearing excess hormones out of the system. When its functions are impaired, the liver fails to properly metabolise hormones such as oestrogen, leading to the formation of breasts in men. Moreover, spironolactone, a medicine used to treat cirrhosis can further exacerbate the condition.

Malnutrition: Prolonged periods of starvation can cause the development of gynecomastia. Malnourished men have lower levels of testosterone and gonadotropin in the body with normal levels of oestrogen produced in the adrenal glands. When the person returns to normal feeding, temporary breast enlargement is seen. This is mainly because some bodily systems increase their functions before the others. Heres an interesting trivia; World War 2 concentration camp inmates and Allied prisoners of war were known to have gynecomastia when they were freed since they were starved for long durations.

Problems in the hypothalamus, pituitary or testicles: The condition where the testicles dont produce enough testosterone is called male hypogonadism. It could probably result from a problem in the testicles or from the hypothalamus or pituitary gland. The hypothalamus produces a hormone that signals the pituitary to produce luteinising hormones that trigger testosterone production. The skewed testosterone to oestrogen ratio then causes the growth of male breasts.

Kidney failure and dialysis: Impaired renal functions simply cause hormonal abnormalities, especially decreased testosterone production and increased oestrogen levels. The problem can be reversed by kidney transplantation, but dialysis cannot do much to help the patient. Certain drugs like cyclosporin taken after kidney transplant can cause development of breasts in men.

And as far as dialysis is concerned, gynecomastia is seen in 50 percent of patients who undergo the procedure. Before dialysis, the patients have restricted diets causing them to go on a starvation mode for a while. Gynecomastia is triggered when they return to a regular diet.

Ectopic hcg production: Healthy men have normal levels of Human chorionic gonadotropin or hCG. But if by any chance, there is large-cell carcinoma, gastric carcinoma or renal cell carcinoma, the ectopic production of hCG can trigger gynecomastia.

True hermaphroditism: The condition where a person is born with both ovarian and testicular tissue is called as true hermaphroditism. The ovarian tissues of the person produce more oestrogen and inhibit the production of testosterone, leading to gynecomastia or male breast formation.

Increased cortisol levels: If there is an excess of the cortisol in the system due to mental stress, the body starts secreting excessive oestrogen precursors. Increased serum cortisol and oestrogen coupled with low serum testosterone is a sure shot formula for gynecomastia!

Type 1 diabetes: Diabetic mastopathy is a benign condition seen in men suffering from type 1 diabetes. Men who have been battling the condition for a long time eventually develop tough masses or lesions on their chest.Spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy or Kennedys disease: It is a degenerative neural disorder caused due to the weakness of motor neurons in the brainstem and the spinal cord. The disease also affects the endocrine glands, causing gynecomastia.

Spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy or Kennedys disease: It is a degenerative neural disorder caused due to the weakness of motor neurons in the brainstem and the spinal cord. The disease also affects the endocrine glands, causing gynecomastia.


Cuhaci, N., Polat, S. B., Evranos, B., Ersoy, R., & Cakir, B. (2014). Gynecomastia: clinical evaluation and management. Indian journal of endocrinology and metabolism, 18(2), 150.

Image source: Shutterstock

Published: July 12, 2017 5:51 pm | Updated:July 12, 2017 6:02 pm

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Man boobs (gynecomastia) could indicate serious health problems - TheHealthSite

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