What Causes Gynecomastia

Gynecomastia is the increase in male breast tissue, which results in visibly larger breasts. Although this condition is most frequently caused by a change in hormones, it can also be triggered by prescription medications, drug use, certain foods, and medical conditions. Regardless of the cause, however, an excess of estrogen is almost always an underlying factor.

Hormonal Changes

In most instances, Gynecomastia develops in males who are experiencing hormonal changes. When boys or men experience hormonal imbalance, an increased occurrence of estrogen (female hormones) encourages the growth of breast tissue and the androgens (male hormones) are unable to counteract this development. As a result, affected individuals often develop swollen breast tissue during periods of change in hormone levels such as puberty. Pubescent teenagers experience a number of hormone changes, including an increase in the production of estrogen, which stimulates the growth of breast tissue. Luckily, this growth is temporary and often diminishes within 24 months.

Aging men are also prone to Gynecomastia, as a result of a reduction in testosterone production, which typically occurs between the ages of 50 and 70. Unfortunately, since this disproportionate estrogen increase is caused by aging rather than the temporary imbalance caused by puberty, it does not disappear on its own and may require treatment or medication.

Even newborn male babies can be impacted by Gynecomastia due to the high levels of estrogen they receive from their mother in utero.  In fact, it is reported that as many as one in nine newborn males are affected. This swelling typically dissipates within a few weeks and does not require treatment.

Prescription Medications

It is estimated that approximately 10-20 percent of Gynecomastia is caused by prescription medications. In particular, anti-retrovirals, prostate cancer treatments, and anti-psychotics commonly stimulate breast tissue growth. If you suffer from Gynecomastia, your doctor will examine your medical history in order to determine whether medication use may be the cause.


Recently, a connection has been established between the consumption of food that is rich in estrogen and the development of Gynecomastia. For example, genetically modified milk and meat as well as tofu, soy, and a number of grains and vegetables including flax seeds, sesame seeds, beans, and bran cereals, are all high in estrogen; thus, when consumed, these foods increase the body’s estrogen levels. Although their consumption alone cannot trigger the development of Gynecomastia, men who already have elevated levels of estrogen may encourage its progression with a diet high in estrogen.

Medical Conditions

Some medical conditions also contribute to the development of tissue growth in the breasts, including kidney failure, liver disease, hyperthyroidism, Klinefelter Syndrome and malnutrition.

If you are troubled by the presence of male breast tissue, we welcome you to schedule a complimentary consultation with Dr. Edelstein or Dr. Jindal to determine its cause and, more importantly, establish a treatment plan in order to help restore your appearance and confidence.




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