Common Causes of Gynecomastia


Gynecomastia, which means “woman breast,” is the overdevelopment of breasts in males. It can occur in babies, preteens, adolescents and adult men. In the first three groups, gynecomastia is generally benign and usually goes away on its own. The condition in men, though, can indicate a serious problem.

What Causes Gynecomastia?

Babies are exposed to estrogen from their mother. That can cause many baby boys to develop breast buds, which usually go away by the time the child is six months old. In preteens and teens, gynecomastia is typically caused by the hormonal changes that accompany puberty.

Boys may develop enlarged breasts from early to mid-adolescence. Gynecomastia in boys typically lasts from six months to two years, and the breasts eventually shrink back to normal on their own. Occasionally, though, the condition can be caused by a tumor that produces estrogen.

The news isn’t as good or straightforward for men. Their gynecomastia has many more causes, and some of them are quite serious. The condition in a grown man can be caused by certain medications or drugs, some thyroid problems, cirrhosis and some types of cancer.

The medications known to cause gynecomastia include the following:

• Antidepressants and antianxiety medications, including Valium and tricyclic antidepressants
• Steroids
• Chemotherapy drugs, especially alkylating agents
• Ulcer medicines, like cimetidine
• Heart medications, like digitalis
• Anticonvulsants, like Dilantin
• Antibiotics

The most common physical cause is simply aging, which causes hormonal changes. About 25 percent of men between 50 and 80 develop the condition, with overweight men being especially susceptible.

Men suffering from malnutrition can also develop gynecomastia. Lack of proper nutrition causes testosterone levels to drop while estrogen levels are not affected.

Gynecomastia is always caused by hormonal changes or imbalance of some kind. So any disease that affects hormone-producing organs or glands might cause gynecomastia. Cancer or tumors affecting the testicles, pituitary gland or adrenal gland are all examples.

Hypogonadism is another cause. A condition like Klinefelter syndrome that interferes with the normal production of testosterone is going to be a cause. An overactive thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine.

Diseases of the liver, like cirrhosis, cancer or liver failure, cause hormonal fluctuations. Some of the medications used to treat liver disease can also cause gynecomastia.

Learn More Today

The office of Dr. Steven Warnock, MD in Draper proudly offers surgery as a way for males to finally say goodbye to their enlarged breasts.

During your consultation with us, we can evaluate your unique situation and help you determine if surgery is the best option for you. Contact our office today to schedule your appointment to learn more.