What causes gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia is caused by changes in the level of androgens (male hormones) in the body, as may occur during puberty. Fluctuations in androgen levels can occur for a variety of reasons.

Developmental causes of gynecomastia

Gynecomastia is common over the course of development, especially when hormone fluctuations occur, such as during:

  • Aging
  • Infancy
  • Puberty

Disease causes of gynecomastia

In addition to developmental causes, androgen fluctuations may occur as a result of disease or disease treatment, such as:

  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
  • Hypogonadism (decreased activity of the gland that produces sex hormones)
  • Kidney or liver failure
  • Liver disease (includes any type of liver problem, such as hepatitis, cirrhosis and liver failure)
  • Medication side effects, including side effects of hormone treatments, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and certain medications
  • Tumors of androgen-producing glands, such as adrenal glands or testes

Lifestyle causes of gynecomastia

Certain lifestyle factors can also play a role in the development of gynecomastia including:

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Amphetamine or heroin use
  • Marijuana use
  • Steroid use

What are the risk factors for gynecomastia?

A number of factors increase the risk of developing gynecomastia. Not all people with risk factors will get gynecomastia. Risk factors for gynecomastia include:

  • Family history of hormone imbalance
  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
  • Hypogonadism (decreased activity of the gland that produces sex hormones)
  • Kidney or liver failure
  • Liver disease (includes any type of liver problem, such as hepatitis, cirrhosis and liver failure)
  • Puberty
  • Steroid or illegal drug use

Reducing your risk of gynecomastia

In some cases, gynecomastia can arise from hormone imbalances due to behavioral causes. You may be able to lower your risk of gynecomastia by:

  • Avoiding marijuana
  • Avoiding unnecessary steroids
  • Ceasing use of bodybuilding supplements and drugs
INTRODUCTION

What is gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia refers to a condition in which males develop unusual amounts of breast tissue. It should not be confused with pseudogynecomastia, in which adipose (fat) tissue takes on the appearance of breasts. Gynecomastia is not uncommon, especially in pubescent males and male infants. Gynecomastia arises from changes in androgen and estrogen levels, which control the development of male a... Read more about gynecomastiaintroduction

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of gynecomastia?

The usual symptoms of gynecomastia include lumps under the nipple on either one or both sides of the torso, breast development, and tenderness of the breasts. In more serious cases, symptoms of gynecomastia include painful breasts, skin ulceration over the breast, or nipple discharge. Seek medical attention for any serious symptoms of gynecomastia, as these could be early indicators of breast cancer.... Read more about gynecomastiasymptoms

TREATMENTS

How is gynecomastia treated?

In most cases, especially in pubescent males and infants, gynecomastia resolves itself. In extreme cases, medical intervention, such as hormone therapy or even breast reduction surgery, may be required. In cases in which there is an underlying cause, such as steroid abuse, treatment of the underlying cause generally leads to resolution of gynecomastia.... Read more about gynecomastiatreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Male Reproductive System