What Causes Gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia can be a distressing condition that affects your self-confidence and the way you live. If you have enlarged male breasts, you may feel ashamed of taking off your shirt in public. At Murphy Plastic Surgery in Englewood, CO, we understand how devastating this condition can be to your quality of life and we aim to provide effective treatments for our patients.

We strive to ensure that our patients can confidently visit us for male breast reduction services so that they can feel their best again. Our board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Murphy, and his staff provide personalized service and care in a comfortable environment to ensure the best outcomes with minimal downtime. With extensive training and experience under his belt, we are ready to help you achieve the body you’ve always wanted!

What Causes Gynecomastia?

Hormonal Imbalance

Estrogen hormones are the primary female sex hormones. They are responsible for the development of female sexual characteristics and reproductive organs. This hormone is naturally produced by the bodies of both men and women.

Androgen hormones, on the other hand, are male sex hormones that play a key role in sexual health and development in males, including lean muscle production and sperm production. An imbalance between these hormones can lead to several conditions such as enlarged breast tissue growth in men.


Decreased testosterone is one potential cause of enlarged breast tissue in males. Testosterone is an essential androgen hormone responsible for initiating puberty in boys, and lower levels than normal may result in enlarged male breasts due to a lack of sufficient counteracting force from testosterone to keep estrogen-regulated processes under control.

Low testosterone is often caused by aging or poor lifestyle choices such as unhealthy eating habits, lack of exercise, and substance abuse. It has also been confirmed that certain medications may alter testosterone levels in men. As a result, weakened testosterone production can exacerbate an already existing imbalance between estrogen and androgen hormones leading to enlarged breasts in males.


In the United States, obesity is now a major health concern and affects more than 41.9% of adults. Additional research has found that Black adults have an even higher rate of obesity at 49.9%. The major causes of obesity are various combinations of unhealthy dietary choices, an inactive lifestyle, genetics, and certain medical conditions such as hypothyroidism.

The adverse effects associated with obesity extend beyond physical health and often impact mental health as well. For example, obese individuals may experience issues such as depression and social isolation due to discrimination or negative body image issues. Similarly, gynecomastia can occur in obese individuals due to excess fat accumulation around their chest area. This over-accumulation then leads to an increase in estrogen levels that stimulates further growth of the breast tissue.


Stress can cause male breast tissue to enlarge periodically. The hormones secreted by the adrenal gland include cortisol, adrenaline, androgens, and estrogens. When the body is under stress, some of these hormones are also released into circulation and can interact with other hormones, causing an imbalance. In particular, increased production of estrogen precursors by the adrenal glands can lead to an accumulation of estrogen receptors in breast tissue.

Hereditary Factors

One common hereditary condition that results in enlarged breast tissue in males is Klinefelter syndrome. This chromosomal abnormality occurs when males have an extra X chromosome (XXY instead of XY), and affects roughly one in every 500 males. Symptoms of Klinefelter syndrome may include enlarged breasts in males, small testicles, infertility, poor muscle tone and coordination, learning disabilities, and weakened bones.

Certain Drugs

Steroids are a synthetic version of hormones naturally present in the body, and they are designed to improve performance in certain activities such as bodybuilding or competitive sports. Common examples of steroids include anabolic steroids and human growth hormone. While these substances can be beneficial for muscle building and strength training, long-term use increases the risk of developing enlarged breast tissue in males due to the effect on testosterone levels.

Recreational drugs also have been linked to the development of this condition. These substances often alter hormone levels within the body, resulting in an imbalance between estrogen and testosterone and leading to swollen breast tissue. Examples of drugs that have been found to cause this side effect include marijuana, opioids like heroin, alcohol, cocaine, and amphetamines.

Treatment for Gynecomastia

Diet and Exercise

Reducing body fat and increasing muscle mass is an effective strategy that can help treat mild cases of prominent breasts in males. Adopting a nutritious meal plan that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins can help individuals reduce their overall body fat percentage. Additionally, adding exercise into their routine will help to build up muscle mass while burning off excess fat.

This combination of diet and exercise can allow individuals to achieve the desired aesthetic result without any medical intervention. Note that diet and exercise alone may not always be enough for more severe cases, such as when there is an underlying hormonal imbalance or when the condition has been present for an extended period of time.


Liposuction is a great option for individuals who have enlarged breast tissue caused primarily by an excess of fat in the area. Dr. Murphy will conduct the liposuction procedure, during which he’ll make small incisions near the chest area, then insert a cannula through these incisions and maneuver it beneath the skin. The cannula is then used to suction out excess fat.

Dr. Murphy may also use liposuction as an adjunct to other treatments, such as male breast reduction surgery. In this case, liposuction can be used to remove fatty deposits that have not been addressed by any other procedures, leaving behind smooth and sculpted contours on the chest area. The treatment will typically take 1-2 hours depending on how much fat needs to be removed.


Surgery is often the best route to take when the prominence of the breast tissue is primarily due to an excess of tissue. The procedure itself involves an incision to remove the breast tissue, with fat being removed either by liposuction or CoolSculpting. The remaining tissue is repositioned to provide a more contoured and desired shape.

Dr. Murphy also can use laser treatments at times to break down excess fibrous tissues after excision. Depending on the extent of the surgery, recovery time generally ranges from a few days to several weeks, allowing individuals with gynecomastia to gain confidence in their appearance and have a lasting reduced amount of breast tissue.


CoolSculpting is particularly ideal in cases where an excess of fat causes the enlargement, as it allows the doctor to freeze away the extra tissue without any incisions or disruption to the surrounding skin. CoolSculpting requires no anesthesia and typically results in minimal discomfort during the treatment.

The procedure involves using a specialized device to apply cold temperatures to the affected area. This causes the fat cells to freeze and eventually die, leaving behind a sculpted area with less fat. Dr. Murphy will conduct the CoolSculpting process by marking off the specific area that needs to be treated and then applying the cooling device directly to it.

After CoolSculpting Is Completed

Once the treatment has been completed, patients may see a reduction in size after just one treatment session or may need multiple sessions depending on their desired results. After each treatment session, it’s crucial for patients to maintain healthy habits such as exercising regularly and eating healthy foods in order to help maintain their results.

How Do You Know if You Have Gynecomastia?

To know if you have the condition, there are different signs and symptoms to look out for. Typically, people with this condition will experience breast development that includes pain or tenderness in the chest area as well as increased breast size.

Oftentimes the above symptoms are accompanied by puffy nipples and lumps beneath the nipples. One may also feel sensitivity, itching, and skin irritation around the nipple area. If you’re experiencing any of these issues, it’s crucial to bring them up with us so we can make an accurate diagnosis and determine whether or not treatment is necessary.

Get the Help You Need Today!

Gynecomastia can occur for a variety of reasons. Hormone imbalances, obesity, use of certain medications, or just genetics can all be contributing factors. Contact Murphy Plastic Surgery in Englewood, CO, today, and let us provide you with treatment options tailored to your individual needs.

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