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Gynecomastia In Teenagers: Why Teen Boys Develop Breasts

Gynecomastia in teenagers can be caused by a number of reasons with 48% of teenagers developing some amount of breast tissue.

Gynecomastia In Teenagers: Why Teen Boys Develop Breasts2019-03-06T21:00:31-05:00

Gynecomastia In Teenagers

gynecomastia in teenagers

Gynecomastia in teenagers is one of the most embarrassing situations for them and according to the Cleveland Clinical Journal Of Medicine Volume 71 that focused on gynecomastia, this medical condition may occur in 48% to 64% of boys going through puberty, first appearing as early as 10 years of age, with a peak onset between ages 13 and 14, followed by a decline in late teenage years [1].

Of Teenagers Have Breast Tissue Growth

This also converges with the findings of  Mikkel Grunnet Mieritz, MD, who spearheaded a study as part of his PhD project at the Department of Growth and Reproduction at the Copenhagen University Hospital. His study concluded that “When we looked at boys who are in a particular stage of their puberty, we observed that up to 60 percent of the boys had breast development.” [2]

Know A Teenager Concerned About Gynecomastia ?

about 48% of all teenagers have some form of gynecomastia in their adolscence

Please try to understand about what your teenage son is going through. Close family members and friends need to be there for them at these times because even tiny breasts can be a tough mental burden for a boy in puberty, and remember that all this occur during a vulnerable period in the life of a teenage boy. Constant support and encouragement is needed from friends and family [3].

gynecomastia in teenagers can be a huge blow to their self-esteem and sense of confidence

For teenage boys with gynecomastia, they struggle with their condition for years with negative body image issues and are often horrified, ashamed, and afraid of outside ridicule [3]. Some teens even deliberately gain weight to avoid the embarrassment of their enlarged breasts.  According to a June 2006 issue of Science Daily News, “Adolescents with negative body image concerns are more likely to be depressed, anxious and suicidal than adolescents with psychiatric illnesses.” The study was conducted by researchers at Bradley Hospital, Butler Hospital, and Brown Medical School [4].

Occurrence Of Gynecomastia

Gynecomastia is seen in mainly two stages of the life span of an individual and is associated with hormonal changes in the body. Infants have breast development but the first main stage in the life span of all males when gynecomastia can come is during puberty when 48% to 64% of all teenagers have some form of breast tissue growth and the next stage being in old age or between 60-80 years. Hormone changes occur in parallel to development of gynecomastia in these stages of life [5,6].

An image that talks about the causes of gynecomastia in teenagers

What Causes Gynecomastia In Teenagers ?

what causes gynecomastia in teenagers

Gynecomastia in teenagers is a natural phenomenon and is part of the physiological growth and evolution of males [7]. The final process of confirming an individual’s gender happens when they go through puberty [8]. At this time, the body undergoes a lot of hormone fluctuation and sees a high level of the female hormone estrogen. This excess level of estrogen signals the body to develop feminine features like breast tissue. A secondary reason that will worsen the situation is if you are over weight and have a high body fat content [9]. This is because fat produces an enzyme called aromatase and it converts testosterone to estrogen. The process of testosterone being converted to estrogen is called aromatization [10].

All Breast Enlargement Is NOT Gynecomastia

One popular misunderstanding is that all breast enlargement in males are caused as a result of excess breast tissue. Breast enlargement can also be caused by excess pectoral or chest fat and if the individual is obese or has high fat content in the body, this is all the more likely [11]. So the first thing you need to figure out is what is causing the breast enlargement. Your can see your family doctor but your best bet would be to have an appointment with a physician who specialises in the treatment of gynecomastia.

Difference Between Gynecomastia And Pseudogynecomastia

An illustration showing the difference between gynecomastia and pseudogynecomastia

One of the common misunderstandings regarding breast enlargement in men is that all breast enlargement is caused by excessive tissue growth. However, breast enlargement can also be caused by pectoral fat or chest fat and if you are overweight or have above normal body fat, it is a bigger probability. Breast enlargement due to chest fat is called pseudogynecomastia or false gynecomastia [12]. If you are overweight or have high body fat content, do not rush to the conclusion that you have gynecomastia because it can be excess fat (pseudogynecomastia) accumulated in the chest.

Always diagnose pubertal gynecomastia with the help of a doctor

Confirming Pubertal Gynecomastia

how to diagnose gynecomastia

So the first thing to do when you if you are concerned about your bigger chest is to confirm that what you think as gynecomastia is in fact, gynecomastia. Your best bet is to see a doctor specializing in the treatment of gynecomastia and to have your chest checked. Your family doctor can also confirm gynecomastia but if possible, see a doctor in your city specializing in gynecomastia treatment and surgery. Below is an illustration of one way a doctor differentiating between gynecomastia and pseudogynecomastia or chest fat [13,14].

Diagnosing Gynecomastia

Diagnosis of gynecomastia and pseudogynecomastia by a doctor

Classic Approach

The patient lies flat on his back with his hands clasped beneath his head. Using the separated thumb and forefinger, the examiner slowly brings the fingers together from either side of the breast. In patients with true gynecomastia, a rubbery or firm mound of tissue that is concentric with the nipple–areolar complex is felt. In patients with pectoral or chest fat, no such disk or tissue is found [11].

Gynecomastia Diagnosis Physical Examination Difference

Gynecomastia Pseudogynecomastia
A mass under the nipple area of the breast with or without pain when touched or squeezed. Breast enlargement involves the both breasts equally and evenly, without pain during palpation.

Does Gynecomastia In Teenagers Require Treatment ?

Gynecomastia in teenagers should go away as they enter adulthood. The excessive breast tissue that is the cause of concern will even out as the chest expands once teenagers enter adulthood. In normal circumstances, it does not need any intervention at the time of puberty and it should go away as it came without further intervention [15].

You must also be careful if you are using any medication to suppress it because you might be interfering with a natural body process. Always consult a doctor before taking any medications that you think would suppress the breast tissue growth. If you are overweight and have high levels of fat content, then what you suspect as gynecomastia could be in fact, accumulated fat or pseudogynecomastia [16,17].

What The Experts Say

“We know from international studies that in more than 90 percent of the boys the breast development is self-limiting. In general, it is estimated that it disappears within a year and a half” (Mieritz, Sorensen, Aksglaede, Mouritsen, Hagen, Hilsted, Andersson, & Juul, 2014). So, pubertal gynecomastia is not forever [7].

Frequently Asked Questions About Gynecomastia In Teenagers

frequently asked questions about gynecomastia in teenagers

Am I The Only Boy With Gynecomastia ?

Nothing could be farther from truth. It is estimated that about half of the guys who go through puberty will develop gynecomastia. Only the rate or size of growth differs. Say for example that there are 30 guys in your class, you can safely assume that 15 or half of them will be experiencing the same growth of breast tissue like you. Trust me, you are not alone and gynecomastia in teenagers is a lot more common than you think [3].

Who Can I Talk To  ?

You can certainly talk to your parents, school nurse or social worker about your condition.  If the idea of talking to your parents makes you feel uncomfortable, try writing an email or letter telling them how miserable you are feeling. You can provide the link to our website to help them understand about your condition. You can also reach out to us directly if you have more questions.

Should I See A Doctor ?

If you feel that you need to see a doctor and confirm this for your peace of mind, then by all means you should. It is recommended that you see a doctor or surgeon specializing in the treatment of individuals with gynecomastia. He or she would be in a better position to clarify and answer each and every question you may have.

Teenagers concerned about gynecomastia can talk to a doctor to alleviate their concerns

Will Gynecomastia In Teenagers Stay Forever ?

Now here is some good news! Gynecomastia in teenagers should usually go away as you finish your teen years and enter into adulthood [3]. This means, by the age of 20, your chest will start to flatten out and before you know it, it should be gone. You need not be bothered too much about this natural growth that happens to you. Stay calm and give it the time to go away and it will. However, if the breast development stays or continues even after adolescence, then it is a genuine case of gynecomastia.

Can Gynecomastia In Teenagers Be Removed By Surgery ?

Gynecomastia surgery to get rid of gynecomastia in teenagers is not recommended due to two main reasons [19]. First, the development of breast tissue in teenagers is a natural process and there is nothing medically wrong in it to warrant a surgery [3]. The second reason is that even if you get rid of the excess breast tissue, there is a likelihood of it coming back. For the majority cases of gynecomastia in teenagers, their breast tissue will be spread evenly as they enter adulthood and it will be barely noticeable. So in normal circumstances, surgery is not recommended for gynecomastia in teenagers [18,19].

frequently asked questions about gynecomastia in teenagers

Where Can I Read More About Hormone Imbalance ?

The Anti-Estrogenic Diet: How Estrogenic Foods and Chemicals Are Making You Fat and Sick – this book is readily available at Kindle, where you’ll learn how to avoid consuming estrogenic substances, and how certain foods and herbs can help maintain your body’s hormonal balance. Another book is Estrogen Dominance: Hormonal Imbalance of the 21st Century available on Kindle as well as paperback on Amazon.

Does Drug Use Cause Gynecomastia In Teenagers ?

According to an evidence-based review, drugs are estimated to cause about 10 – 25% of all cases of gynecomastia [16]. Marijuana is one of the recreational drugs that can contribute to the development of Gynecomastia [20]. This is backed by physicians such as Ran D. Goldman, MD, who authored an April 2010 study, “Drug-induced gynecomastia in children and adolescents,” which is reported in the Canadian Family Physician journal [16].

He stated that drug-induced gynecomastia is common and may be held responsible for a quarter of all cases, including gynecomastia in teenagers. In the study, he provided a table that lists drugs that can cause gynecomastia and not surprisingly, marijuana is listed among them. The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) medical website, Medline Plus also lists marijuana as a factor that can cause breast enlargement.

drugs can cause gynecomastia among teenagers

Physicians like Goldman and Youn were not the only ones who have studied the effects of marijuana as acting contributors to man boobs. According to a report titled “Male Breast Growth and Pot,” the medical community has speculated a link between pot and gynecomastia for years [21]. However, there hasn’t been adequate research to validate their theories due to the drug’s distinction as an illegal substance. Even still, National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) medical website, Medline Plus, listed marijuana as a certain substance that can cause breast enlargement and this is no different in the case of gynecomastia in teenagers.

The Bottom Line About Drugs And Gynecomastia

Detroit-based plastic surgeon, Dr. Anthony Youn, posted a CNN article called “Does Smoking Pot Cause Man Boobs?“, which describes how marijuana use could be the cause of the development of gynecomastia because of the drug’s effects on hormone levels [22]. Dr. Youn wrote, “Gynecomastia is caused by a hormone imbalance between testosterone and estrogen. When the ratio between testosterone and estrogen tips in favor of estrogen, the body responds by creating excessive breast tissue. Hence, man boobs.” [22]

teenagers who smoke marijuana have a higher chance to develop gynecomastia

Using drugs is like adding fuel to the unwanted estrogen production in your body and will lead to irreversible breast tissue growth [16]. However, there are other instances where you could get gynecomastia in puberty and not be pubertal gynecomastia. This could be due to a genetic defect, as a side effect of a medication that you are using to treat another totally unrelated medical condition. If you are over-weight or obese, then there is also the chance of having the visual effect of gynecomastia as a result of an accumulation of fat [3].

Avoid Estrogen-Rich Food

The below is a list of food items that are very rich in estrogen [24]. Soy bean and tofu are very high in estrogen and it would be better if you can take them out of your menu and diet. The other food types in the list like beans and seeds also contains antioxidants, amino acids, essential dietary fiber, minerals and vitamins that are necessary for our body. Removing them completely from your diet could put you at the risk of losing vital nutrients, particularly when you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.

No: Description
1 Soy beans and soy products
2 Coffee
3 Apples
4 Beans
5 Peas
6 Sesame seeds
7 Rice
8 Carrots
9 Soybean
10 Tempeh
11 Tofu
12 Oats
estrogen rich foods can also raise estrogen levels causing gynecomastia in teenagers

The above is by no standard a complete list. If you are interested about incorporating an anti-estrogen diet that avoids estrogen and focus on testosterone rich food, take a look at the anti-estrogen diet for gynecomastia page for a comprehensive list of food items and recipes.

If You Have Breast Tissue Growth

drug abuse can lead to enlarged breast in teenagers
  • Avoid drugs that fasten estrogen production. This is necessary because you are intentionally fuelling breast tissue growth on top of the already higher levels of estrogen production during adolescence. Drug abuse is like adding gas to an estrogen inferno [16].

  • Avoid eating foods that are rich in estrogen or fuel estrogen production. You will be amazed to find the number of estrogen rich foods we have in our diet and eat on a daily basis [23,24,25].

  • Do Not Panic. If you are are not taking drugs like pot that turbo charges your estrogen production, you have little to worry. Your excess breast tissue will be spread evenly when your chest flattens out [3].

  • Workout in the gym if possible. Working out in the gym especially for the chest will help you flatten your chest and in turn, will force the excess breast tissue to spread out [7].

  • Make sure that you are eating testosterone production boosting foods and include them in your diet whenever possible. This will help you to catch up with the increase in estrogen production.

If You Have Pseudogynecomastia

First things first. You have to understand and accept that there is high fat content in your body and that is not the best situation to be in for the long life ahead. The good news on the other hand, is that yours is fortunately, not a case of gynecomastia in teenagers but just fat deposit under and around nipples or areola [3]. You can get rid of this by working out in general and especially for your chest. For a complete list of workouts that targets chest fat, take a look at the the workouts to lose chest fat page. You can also use a supplement specifically developed to burn chest fat to speed up pectoral fat loss. If it is left unchecked, you will carry on the fat and it will go up proportionately in the coming years and you will develop serious body-consciousness issues from undesirable attention to your enlarged chest [18].

An image that talks about the different options to lose chest fat
  • Incorporate physical activity into your daily life. Workout in the gym if you can, walk, jog or run daily if possible or at least on alternative days [26].

  • If you workout in the gym, make sure you do these workouts to lose chest along with other workouts. You might be tempted to just do the workouts to lose chest fat all day long but that is not going to help you. Spot reduction is a myth. However, you can do more of these workouts and I recommend you do them every other day.

  • Include foods that help you produce testosterone as well as foods rich in fibre and protein to your diet. This will help you immensely in fat reduction.

  • Bring down the amount of fat that goes into your body. Even if you are working out, it will not help you unless you control the fat that you consume. Limit the amount of fat and sugars that you are eating. Working out and eating scientifically is a totally different topic but if you want to learn how professionals and celebrities do that, read this page.

  • Avoid estrogen rich foods that fuel estrogen production [23,24,25].

An infographic about gynecomastia in teenagers

Medical Review Team

Medical reviewer at Gynecoma.comThe content of this page was fact-checked and medically reviewed by Dr.Sergii Vasyliuk MD on October 22, 2018. You can read more about Dr.Sergii Vasyliuk MD and his credentials at our about us page.

The content of this page was fact-checked and medically reviewed by Dr.Marija Petkovic MD on December 19, 2018. You can read more about Dr.Marija Petkovic MD and her credentials at our about us page.



Suggested Further Reading


A-Z guide to pseudogynecomastia

a-z guide to gynecomastia surgery

compression shirts for men with gynecomastia

the best workouts to lose chest fat for men

what is man boobs

a detailed guide about causes of gynecomastia

an image of a doctor explaining the different available gynecomastia treatment options

a definitive guide covering everything on gynecomastia surgery cost

a-z guide to breast reduction supplements for men

a comprehensive guide to post cycle therapy to get rid of gynecomastia

the main requirements to get insurance coverage for gynecomastia surgery

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