Gynaecomastia (Breast development in men)

Donít worry, breast development is common enough in boys during puberty and is due to the change in your hormones. It is likely to settle spontaneously. You may notice that your breasts are painful and tender to touch. Breast enlargement is also common in older men and again is due to either an increased level of circulating oestrogen (the main female hormone) or an altered ratio of androgens (male hormones) to oestrogen.

Obese men can have apparent breast enlargement which is simply fatty tissue, but they can also develop breast tissue.

At other times in a manís life, breast enlargement is less common, and may signal that something is wrong, particularly if it is rapid and progressive. You should see a doctor who will examine you and arrange some blood tests.

One note of caution, breast cancer is very rare in men, but can occur. If you notice an enlarging lump in one breast, rather than generalised enlargement of both breasts it is important that you see a doctor.

Causes include

  • medicinal - certain drugs for heart disease, ulcers, high blood pressure, chemotherapy agents
  • recreational: cannabis, heroin and methadone as well as anabolic steroids. Stopping the drugs will reduce any tenderness, but the breast tissue may persist.
Other causes
  • Liver disease
  • Testicular tumours
  • Testicles that are underdeveloped, or damaged through illness or trauma (eg following mumps)
  • Tumours of the adrenal glands
  • Altered thyroid function - usually overactive
  • Kidney failure
  • Prolactinomas
  • Obesity
Surgical or with drugs

Further information

This article published on
01 August 2005

Next review date 8/1/2013


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