Gynecomastia, or what is referred to as man boobs, is a common problem usually suffered in silence. While it is generally benign condition, it can be tough to cope with. However, there are rare instances where this problem shouldn’t simply be swept under the rug for it could mean something serious. But this is not meant to cause any panic, rather we only aim to educate you.
While there are no Australian statistics available, a 2016 statistic from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) showed that 27,760 American men underwent gynecomastia surgery (breast reduction surgery). It showed a 36 percent increase since 2000.
This is to show those guys who are suffering in silence that you are not alone. But you should also keep your guard up for potential health problems that are looming behind what seems to be a harmless condition. Moveover, the knowledge about certain diseases and its link to gynecomastia will also serve as a guide to help you understand and find the appropriate treatment.
Prolonged periods of starvation can result in the development of man boobs. Malnutrition can cause testosterone and gonadotropin levels to drop while female hormone levels stay normal. It is because the liver, impaired by protracted starvation, becomes unable to inactivate estrogen, but can still squelch androgen. When the person is able to gain normal food intake, temporary breast enlargement may occur.
A real case scenario which showed this phenomenon was during the World War II were American prisoners were starved for long durations. When they finally received food assistance, several cases of gynecomastia were noted.
This proves that your diet play an important role in ensuring the healthy balance of your hormone levels. Gynecomastia is just one of any physical symptom, but this constant lack of nutrition can lead to a host of problems too. A lot of men may be exposed to this problem even without the threat of famine. Wrong diet habits maintained for a prolonged period can also wreak havoc on your body.
Hepatic Cirrhosis or Liver Diseases
Hepatic or liver problems are one of the common reasons behind gynecomastia. The reason behind this is that the liver is the organ responsible for clearing excess hormones out of your system. However, a cirrhotic or damaged liver would mean that the body’s filtration system is affected. The liver’s ability to properly metabolise hormones such as estrogen also becomes impaired which means that there will be more of this female hormone running through your system. Hence, it will only be a matter of time when certain secondary female sex characteristics may start to take shape – such as man boobs.
What also makes matters worse is that Spironolactone, the medication used to treat cirrhosis, unfortunately exacerbates the condition. This drug alters the peripheral metabolism of testosterone resulting in changes in the ratio of testosterone to estradiol, which eventually results in gynecomastia.
Kidney Failure and Dialysis
In male patients with renal failure, plasma testosterone levels are below normal range. These changes are also likely to be the consequence of combined abnormalities due to renal insufficiency.
In an attempt to prolong life through regular hemodialysis in patients who are suffering from end-stage renal failure, has resulted in several complications – one of which is gynecomastia. Impaired renal function can cause hormonal abnormalities such as decreased testosterone production and increased estrogen levels. This problem can be reversed by a kidney transplant, however, dialysis cannot do much to help. Certain medications, like cyclosporin, that is prescribed after a kidney transplant can result in the development of breasts in men.
One takeaway here is that if a medication you are taking have gynecomastia as one of its side effects, be sure not to stop it without medical advice. Discuss these concerns with your doctor rather to prevent serious consequences.
Type 1 Diabetes
Diabetic mastopathy is a benign condition that occurs in men who are suffering from type 1 diabetes. It clinically presents as multiple palpable painless breast masses which mainly consists of primarily fibrotic and inflammatory elements. While they are benign, these can be mistaken for malignant tumours.
In a case of two male diabetics suffering from gynecomastia that were examined in comparison to a selected group of 6 patients with man boobs, the lesion found in the former was interpreted as a diabetes-induced autoimmune reaction of the breasts. In this case, it is worth noting that researchers concluded that diabetic mastopathy could be potentially create a misleading pattern of benign tumor-like lesion simulating gynecomastia.
So, if you are serious about getting rid of the problem, it is important that you be properly diagnosed. While diabetic mastopathy could likely be a cause, especially if you have type 1 diabetes, there is also a possibility that it could be gynecomastia or a malignant lesion. Appropriate testing can delineate the unique pattern of growth developing inside your chest, and with that, proper treatment can be given.
A male’s risk for breast cancer relies on several factors such as a strong family history of the disease, Jewish ancestry, and other genetic disorders. Having gynecomastia slightly increases your risk due to the change in the ratio of estrogen to testosterone in your body. Breast cells normally grow and divide in response to the female hormones like estrogen. The more these cells divide, the more chances there are for flaws to develop in the system with DNA replication. These DNA changes could eventually lead to cancer.
With that said, it is a good idea that men should also do periodic self breast examinations to check for any changes or lumps. All men – with or without gynecomastia – should be promptly evaluated if any suspicious lumps are noted upon exam.
If you experience nipple discharge, redness, pain, or one-sided swelling immediately seek medical review.
Self Breast Examination for Men
While some people can do something about their gynecomastia, some may have to live with it for the time being since it may be a result of certain medications or treatment. However, in most cases of true gynecomastia, this condition should urge you to be more proactive in disease prevention. Regular screening through self-breast examination is a simple way to help you dodge potentially fatal problems. Gynecomastia may seem pretty harmless, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep your guard up.
If you have questions about gynecomastia or gynecomastia surgery, talk to Dr. Daood today.