Gynecomastia (male breast development) has a negative effect on the self-esteem and emotional health of adolescent boys, according to new research published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the medical journal published by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).
Gynecomastia is the enlargement of breast tissue in males, and is a common occurence among adolescent boys. The development of feminine breasts for boys this age is usually benign in itself (although it may indicate other underlying issues), but it is a significant source of psychological distress for teenagers.
The study involved giving psychological tests to a group of forty-seven healthy boys (average age 16.5 years) who had gynecomastia. Their results were compared against a group of similar boys who did not have breast enlargement.
Significantly more of the boys with gynecomastia were overweight compared with the control group (64% vs. 41%, respectively), which was expected because gynecomastia can associated with being overweight. The researchers attributed this difference to the fact that boys with gynecomastia scored lower on tests for physical health.
The negative effects of gynecomastia alone appeared after the researchers adjusted the scores to account for the effect of BMI (Body Mass Index) on the tests.
After this adjustment, lower scores on tests for self-esteem, social functioning, and mental health seemed to correlate with gynecomastia rather than body weight.
Gynecomastia in adolescent boys often resolves over time, however the enlargement of breast tissue can persist in about eight percent of these patients. Many boys with gynecomastia can largely correct the problem by losing weight.
However, many boys cannot reduce gynecomastia through simple weight loss—for example, boys with glandular enlargement of the breasts. Furthermore, even boys who lose weight to reduce gynecomastia may still have excess skin in the breast area.
Fortunately, plastic surgery procedures that reduce or eliminate gynecomastia are widely available and have been in use for a long time. These procedures are very low-risk and have a high rate of success and patient satisfaction. It should be noted that a gynecomastia patient is much more likely to have an excellent surgical outcome if he chooses a plastic surgeon who is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
This particular study focused on the psychological effects of gynecomastia in adolescent boys, but it is generally accepted that the growth of breast tissue has negative mental and social implications for men of any age. Other causes of gynecomastia can include aging, tumors, hypogonadism, hyperthyroidism, and malnutrition.
Plastic surgery to eliminate gynecomastia is therefore more than a cosmetic procedure for many boys and men: it is greatly beneficial to their self-esteem and emotional well-being.
Dr. Jed Horowitz and Dr. Larry Nichter of the Pacific Center for Plastic Surgery are both members of the ASPS, the surgical society that published the research this month. Our doctors are highly experienced in treating gynecomastia. For more information on gynecomastia and plastic surgery solutions, please vist our gynecomastia page.