When Men Get Busty
This question about gynecomastia and the reply is not prostate-cancer-specific, it is provided because Dr. Braunstein has written several papers on the subject that are cited here at Phoenix5.
QUESTION: I'm a 35-year-old man with an embarrassing problem. My nipples seem to be getting slightly larger, and there's some extra fat. It's almost like I'm growing breasts. What should I do about this?
Oct. 23, 2000 -- First, don't be overly worried. What you've noticed isn't all that unusual. In fact, studies show that 30% to 60% of adult men will develop a condition we call gynecomastia, or excessive growth of breast tissue (men do have breast tissue), over the course of their lives. Although the condition isn't usually serious, it can be linked to potentially dangerous health problems, so the best advice is to see your doctor.
In boys going through puberty, slightly enlarged breasts are no cause for alarm at all. It's just part of normal development and almost always goes away after a year or two. But since you're an adult, your doctor will probably want to find out more about what's going on -- especially if the changes came on suddenly or if you notice any soreness or tenderness.
First, your doctor will do a simple physical examination, feeling the area to see if the problem is caused simply by excess fat. If so, he or she may recommend that you get some exercise and lose some weight. But if your doctor detects an abnormal growth of glandular tissue, the next step is to figure out why.
Being overweight may still be part of the explanation. Excess fat tends to cause a man's body to produce more of the female hormone estrogen, which can stimulate breast tissue growth. But there are other, more common causes, as I describe in a September 1997 article in the journal Hormone Research. In about one-fourth of cases, excess breast tissue from puberty doesn't go away as it normally would. Another fourth of the cases are caused by such medications as hormone supplements, blood pressure drugs, or diuretics that either push up estrogen levels or block male hormones. An equal number of cases are linked to more serious problems, for example, tumors that affect the glands that produce hormones. And for the remaining cases, the cause is still unknown.
Even so, your doctor can usually do something about the problem. If weight loss doesn't solve it, drugs can often block the effect of estrogen and shrink the breast tissue. If that doesn't work, plastic surgery to remove the excess tissue can be considered.
One final point, guys: Having excess breast tissue may be embarrassing to you, but in most cases it's not serious and can be easily treated.
Glenn D. Braunstein, MD, is the chairman of the department of medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and a professor of medicine at the University of California in Los Angeles.
This response was taken from WebMD and appears at a number of sites.