Updated 05 January 2015

Man boobs demystified

If you’re a man or boy with enlarged breasts you can take solace in the fact that this condition is actually very common, even though we don’t like to talk about the issue.


If you’re a man or boy with abnormally enlarged breasts you can take some solace in the fact that this condition is actually very common, even though most men don’t like to talk about the issue.

The condition affects up to 60 percent of all men at some time during their life. It can occur in infants, boys and adults and is particularly common among adolescent boys between the age of 13 and 15 as well as among older men when they reach 60.

The medical term for enlarged breasts in men is gynecomastia. Although it can sometimes be associated with more serious underlying conditions, gynecomastia is not physically harmful. That doesn’t mean that having man boobs or mobs doesn’t frequently lead to severe feelings of shame, depression and embarrassment.


Enlarged male breasts can be the result of being overweight, but in many cases it is caused by changes in the balance between the two human sex hormones estrogen and testosterone. Since hormonal changes are a major part of puberty, gynecomastia frequently affects teenagers. As testosterone production in male bodies tends to drop off with age, the chance of developing moobs tends to increase later on in many men’s lives.

If the problem is obesity, a healthy diet combined with targeted exercising may help you to get rid of your man boobs, but if it’s your hormones that are the culprits there may not be all that much you can do short of having plastic surgery.

Gynecomastia can also be caused by genetic disorders such as Klinefelter’s syndrome in which the presence of an extra chromosome impairs the production of testosterone, encouraging an increase in feminine body traits. In some instances the use of prescribed or illegal drugs may lead to enlarged breasts in men as well. These include:

- steroids - bodybuilders beware!
- alcohol and marijuana
- some tricyclic antidepressants and chemotherapy agents
- Cimitedine, used to treat stomach ulcers
- Spironolactone, a diuretic.

Confused? This very informative BBC documentary should answer some of your questions:

Different types

The most common types of gynecomastia include:

Puffy nipples This involves a raised, somewhat dome-shaped appearance of the areola and nipples.

Adolescent and adult gynecomastia It may come as a surprise, but men do actually have mammary glands, but normally they have very little mammary tissue. However, if there is an imbalance between testosterone and estrogen, this tissue can grow, leading to man boobs. It is estimated that between 30 and 60 percent of young boys suffer from enlarged chests. In many cases the condition disappears as they pass through puberty, but quite frequently it continues into adulthood. Unfortunately neither exercising nor dieting will help to fix the problem.

Pseudogynecomastia or lipomastia This typically occurs in overweight men and boys and in this case it is not mammary tissue that is the problem, but good old body fat. This is the only type of gynecomastia that can be improved by liposuction, but before you go that route you should definitely try a good exercise regiment in combination with a healthy diet.


There are a number of things you can do if you have man boobs:

- Some men simply choose to live with them, using male bras, chest binders or tight spandex and Lycra vests to conceal their shape.

- In the case of pseudogynecomastia a disciplined exercise routine in combination with a balanced diet may help you get rid of your moobs. Liposuction and lipo-sculpture may also be used to remove excess fatty tissue.

- The situation often normalises as boys grow into young men and their hormone imbalances sort themselves out without any treatment. In 90 percent of teenage boys with gynecomastia, the condition disappears within three years.

- Where prescription medication leads to gynecomastia, a move to alternative drugs may reverse the trend.

- Hormone therapy using drugs with names like Letrozole, Tamoxifen, Novaldex, Valodex and Istubal is sometimes used, but this is controversial. Only consider this option under close supervision from a qualified doctor.

- A growing number of males, surprisingly many of them teenage boys, opt for breast reduction surgery.

More info:

- Attack of the man boobs
- Exercise can get rid of your man boobs
- Man boobs are more common than you think!
- Men with boobs
- UK men seeking smaller moobs

(Andreas Späth, Health24, October 2009)



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