It’s not often the topic of discussion at dinner parties, but male breast reduction surgery is surprisingly common, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS). Nearly 17,000 male breast reduction surgeries were performed in 2009.
Male breast reduction surgery is usually performed to treat gynecomastia, in which the breast tissue in men becomes enlarged. Obesity is another cause of breast enlargement in males.
Gynecomastia and its treatment
Gynecomastia is swelling of the breast tissue in boys or men, and it is triggered by a decline in the level of testosterone compared with estrogen. This decrease in hormone levels can be caused by natural hormone changes, the use of certain medications or drugs (e.g., anti-anxiety drugs, tricyclic antidepressants, AIDS medications, marijuana, heroin, among others) and certain health conditions, such as hypogonadism, tumors, and kidney and liver failure. The cause of gynecomastia is unknown in about one-quarter of cases, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Although gynecomastia is typically not a serious problem, it can cause breast tenderness and discomfort as well as emotional stress and embarrassment. In young males during puberty, gynecomastia usually goes away without treatment within six months to two or three years. The condition can peak again between the ages of 50 and 80, a time when it affects at least 25 percent of men.
Gynecomastia can be treated with medications that can balance hormone levels or by treating an underlying medical condition, although surgery is also an option. In fact, “male breast reduction is actually more common than one might think,” according to Felmont Eaves III, MD, president of the ASAPS.
Breast reduction surgery in men can help men feel more confident and comfortable with their appearance and avoid the social stigma of having large breasts. Dr. Eaves points out that most young men who have enlarged breasts should wait until they pass through puberty before having surgery for breast reduction.
Since 1997, there has been a 50 percent increase in the number of male breast reduction surgeries performed, according to the ASAPS. Nearly 60 percent of the surgeries were done on men ages 19 to 34.