Gynecomastia in Boys: Effects Much More than Skin Deep

It’s really no surprise that having any resemblance of breasts to a young male can be psychologically difficult to deal with.  A recent study reported in an issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery®, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), decided to evaluate the effects of persistent breast enlargement (gynecomastia) in adolescent males.  Their findings show that even mild gynecomastia can have adverse effects to the self-esteem and other areas of mental and emotional health in teen boys.  This brings up important implications for early intervention and treatment such as male breast reduction if applicable.

Participants in the study included about 50 healthy boys, average age 16.5 years who had breast enlargement.  They were given a series of psychological tests and their results were compared to a group of similarly aged healthy boys with no breast enlargement.

The researchers administered a series of psychological tests to 47 healthy boys, average age 16.5 years, being evaluated for gynecomastia. The results were compared to those of a group of boys without breast enlargement.

Gynecomastia is benign enlargement of male breast tissue that is actually relatively common in adolescent boys.  The majority of boys will have slight breast enlargement but it usually resolves over time.  Persistent breast enlargement occurs in about eight percent of boys.  Very often, boys with gynecomastia are overweight or obese and may find resolution of their gynecomastia by losing weight.

After taking into consideration the presence of factors related to being overweight or obese, the boys with gynecomastia still had worse self-esteem and emotional health related primarily to their enlarged breasts.  By just having gynecomastia, these boys were more at risk for having significant deficits in general health, social functioning, mental health, self-esteem, and eating behaviors and attitudes compared with the boys without gynecomastia.

Sadly, true glandular enlargement or the presence of a large amount of excess skin in the breast area will not go away with weight loss alone.  Therefore, more and more pediatrician and family physicians are encouraging boys and their parents to consider male breast reduction which is a simple and safe procedure when performed by a qualified plastic surgeon.

Hopefully, insurances will also recognize the profound effects of gynecomastia in adolescent boys.  Historically gynecomastia has been considered a purely “cosmetic” issue and surgery to correct it is not often reimburse by most insurance plans.  Because of this, researchers found that only 35% of adolescent boys who undergo surgery for gynecomastia get it covered by insurance, compared to 85 percent of girls undergoing breast reduction.

Adolescent boys have enough to worry about, don’t let gynecomastia be one more assault to their emotional and physical well-being.  Contact our Boston plastic surgery office today for more information regarding male breast reduction or any other service we can provide.