How Can it be Normal for Men to Develop Breasts?
Many men have gynecomastia --enlarged, female-like breasts--caused by excess glandular tissue or fat(or both).
All About Gynecomastia:
The male chest has muscle, fat, and even little buds of breast tissue. In fact, if one were to squeeze a newborn baby’s nipples –even a boy – a couple of drops of milk can come out due to stimulation of the tissue by his mother’s hormones. Some amount of breast tissue is normally found in all males and females. The difference is that the estrogen surge during female puberty causes it to grow into a full-fledged breast (and when it doesn’t, some women consider having a breast augmentation.)
But even the raging levels of testosterone during puberty are always accompanied by an increase in the level of estrogen in every male. That is because testosterone production is not a perfect process; when the body makes a large amount of testosterone, some estrogen is also made. Likewise, even the most feminine women produces some testosterone. Testosterone is also converted into estrogen by fatty tissues, thereby increasing the growth of the breast buds on top of the additional chest fat seen in overweight young men.
Adolescent boys in particular are embarrassed by it, as they perceive the development of male breasts as some kind of sign that they are somehow “less male.” But the contrary is true! The fact that weightlifters taking testosterone often develop gynecomastia is proof that this related to maleness, not the lack thereof.
It is said that 90% of boys develop some degree of male chest enlargement during puberty. That means that it is actually more normal to get it than not to get it. Usually it subsides as men enter their twenties, but for at least a quarter of them, some degree of breast enlargement persists. It can persist in any man, even the thin, healthy, and fit, but it is more common in boys and men who are or who have been overweight. Anabolic steroid use in weightlifters can also increase gynecomastia, as can heavy marijuana use. There is also a long list of prescription drugs that can cause chest enlargement in males.
That being said, the majority of male chest enlargement patients have no identifiable cause. The bottom line is that it is so common that it is really a variation of normal and should not be considered abnormal. I emphasize this point because gynecomastia patients tend to be very private and embarrassed about their condition; one of my goals, beyond just treating my own gynecomastia patients, is to try to change men’s perception of this condition in general so that we create a climate in which men suffer less embarrassment.