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  • 6 min read

by Matt Weik

While we call it “man boobs” in the colloquial term, the medical expression for the enlargement of the male breast tissue is gynecomastia. According to reports, at least 25% of men around the age of 50 to 69 suffer from gyno, and gynecomastia surgery is one of the most popular cosmetic surgeries in the US among men.

Many young men go through changes in their bodies during puberty due to increased hormone levels (testosterone). Gynecomastia is one of the changes that can occur, which causes the growth or inflammation of breast tissue. Most of the time, this issue tends to resolve itself within a few weeks or six months at a maximum, and some don’t experience gynecomastia at all (or who even know they have gyno).

Although, some men never outgrow gynecomastia, and it can even worsen with age. That being said, there can also be other hormone or lifestyle changes later in life that may lead to gyno. Regardless of the root cause, gyno surgery is the only possible solution for men who fall victim to man boobs.

What is Gynecomastia?

In simple terms, gynecomastia is an increase of fat and tissue in the breast gland of men or boys, and it is caused due to an imbalance of testosterone and estrogen hormones.

Gyno leads to a puffy, swollen, and breast-like look in a man’s chest and nipple area. Gynecomastia does not cause any harm to the body, as it’s mainly cosmetic, but it can affect men psychologically and cause social distress. Many men find they feel insecure in public without a shirt on, and even in some cases, their gyno can even be noticed through shirts.

Gynecomastia generally occurs in both breasts, but sometimes it can attack one breast, and it becomes uneven.

What Causes Gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia is mainly caused due to hormonal changes that occur during puberty. However, there are a number of factors, other than hormonal changes, that lead to gyno.

Again, gynecomastia mainly occurs due to an imbalance between testosterone and estrogen in men. For women, the ratio of testosterone to estrogen is reversed, which is why many women during puberty stages begin growing actual breasts.

Estrogen, which is the female hormone, makes the breast tissue grow in size, while testosterone, the male hormone, prevents estrogen from making breast tissue bulge and is what causes the growth of body hair, a deepening of the voice, as well as the growth of actual muscle tissue.

Every human being, irrespective of their gender, has both hormones, but testosterone is much higher in proportion in males, and females have higher estrogen hormone levels.

According to a study, 1 out of 9 newborn males has palpable breast tissue. The reason behind this is due to high levels of estrogen coming from their mother. The swelling fades away as the estrogen level goes back to normal within a few weeks.

In another piece of research, it was found out that around 10-20 percent of gyno cases are thought to occur from medication or herbal products.

There are some medications and treatment that can cause gynecomastia, such as:
• Chemotherapy
• Anabolic steroids and androgens
• Some ulcer medications
• Some antibiotics
• HIV drugs
• Anti-anxiety medications
• Ulcer drugs
• Some heart medications

Besides during puberty, gyno can be caused by:
• Weight gain
• Alcohol consumption
• Low testosterone levels
• Heredity
• Narcotics
• Amphetamines
• Hyperthyroidism
• Kidney or liver disease

Gynecomastia can appear in bodybuilders too, and it is typically caused due to the use of anabolic steroids. It occurs when the body tries to remove circulating naturally produced testosterone in response to the use of anabolic steroids being introduced, causing the body to stop producing its own.

How to Prevent Gynecomastia

In most cases, the gyno tends to get better on its own without any treatment at all. There are some ways that you can lower your chances of developing gyno in the later stages of life and avoid surgery by using some anti-estrogen drugs prescribed by a doctor.

You will want to avoid using and consuming any recreational or illegal drugs, such as androgens, anabolic steroids, marijuana, heroin, or amphetamines.

Do not consume alcohol, but even if you do, keep it in moderation.

Check your medication list with the help of your doctor to see if any of the medication you may be taking causes or is known to cause gynecomastia. If there is any, ask for alternatives to prevent it if possible.

Furthermore, exercise can sometimes be used to treat gynecomastia, but it has no impact if you have gynecomastia due to glandular tissue growth. As you build up your chest muscles, it can help hide the appearance of gyno.

How is Gynecomastia Treated?

The treatment of gynecomastia depends on the underlying cause and the level of breast tissue development that has already taken place.

Suppose the cause of gyno is anabolic steroid use. In that case, research says the use of anti-estrogen drugs such as tamoxifen can reduce estradiol caused by the breakdown of the anabolic steroid.

But once gyno is formed, only surgical removal of breast tissue is the solution to cure the issue. The treatment must be done by a qualified surgeon, and it involves glandular tissue removal as well as liposuction of the extra fatty tissue surrounding the nipple if required.

Research shows that surgical treatment of gyno is generally successful for bodybuilders.

To summarize, the early stage of gynecomastia can be cured with the help of certain prescription drugs. Surgical removal is the only solution to get rid of fully developed gynecomastia.

Gyno can be inconvenient and cause social and psychological stress, but it does not preclude success in bodybuilding (or life for that matter), as many famous bodybuilders have had successful careers despite suffering from gynecomastia.