It’s easy enough to feel self conscious.  One could be balding, jobless, or still live with their parents.  Some things are beyond a man’s immediate control.  Gynecomastia is one of those things, and it’s no laughing matter…despite its more recognized name – “man boobs.”


Gynecomastia, the abundance and proliferation of male breast tissue, is fueled by too much estrogen or too little androgen.  The abundance of breast tissue is a result of either, or a combination of both.  The cause is physiological, pharmacological, or pathological.


Physiological gynecomastia is a normal body process.  It is common and can occur in as many as 36% of the male population.  It can occur in newborns yet usually subsides in a few weeks.   Adolescents are prone to this kind of gynecomastia too.  Finally, aged men, experiencing a decrease of testosterone may get “man boobs.”

Furthermore, malnutrition in the form of starvation, obesity, or zinc deficiency contributes to the physiological onset of gynecomastia.  Also, a high consumption of foods with a high count of estrogen-like substances (phytoestrogens) can also cause the ailment.


More than 25% of cases are a direct or indirect result of drugs.  Calcium blockers, growth hormones, and ulcer drugs are among those that cause gynecomastia.  Herbal products and natural supplements have also been associated to the development of man boobs.

Unfortunately, drugs that are prescribed for depression and other mood disorders may result in an influx of male breast tissue.  Moreover, drugs used to treat prostate cancer may result in the same side effect.


Man boobs may flourish as the result of a pre-existing disease such as liver failure, kidney failure, or testicular tumors.  Due to certain conditions, the internal chemistry of a man changes causing an excess of estrogen or not enough androgen.


Doctors can prescribe medicine to correct man boobs, yet not all treatments have been approved bytheFDA.  Gynecomastia gland removal is a surgical procedure, usually reserved for extreme cases, or when a body does not respond to pharmaceutical intervention.  In the meantime, guys with man boobs may wear compression shirts to lessen the appearance of excess breast tissue.

It’s important to consult a doctor before a man decides on a solution.  Most medical plans do not cover the cost of surgery.  And, in some cases, men who have undergone surgery were not happy with the results or found the excess tissue returned.  See here for more information about a plastic surgery procedure.

Fact and Fiction

Of course, something as rare and potentially sensational as “man boobs” can inspire a mixture of factual and fictitious claims and stories.  One such claim is associated to a variety of hops used to make IPAbeers.  The irony!  Something as manly as an IPA brew may produce man breasts.  However, though hops contain phytoestrogens, there is no scientific evidence that supports there is enough in beer to inspire an abundance of male breast tissue.  To truly separate fact from fiction, it’s best to speak with a doctor or consult a medical journal.

Dr Kevin M. Ruhge is a specialist plastic surgeon. He has been elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha national honor society and is also a certified member of the American Board of Plastic Surgery. He enjoys sharing his insights and ideas online.