Elliot W. Jacobs, MD, knows a thing or two about enlarged breasts in men, and not just because he specializes in treating the condition.
"My own breasts became enlarged when I was a teenager," says the New York plastic surgeon. "It was very embarrassing. Once, I went to my locker after gym class and saw that a classmate had hung a bra on it."
Men rarely see Thomas J. Weida, MD, for medical tests without prodding from a wife or girlfriend. When they do show up, Weida jokes that he “can see the drag marks on the carpet.”
It’s amusing, of course. But it can quickly turn serious when a man ignores important symptoms. Weida says he knows of men who got away with ignoring chest pain for a couple of weeks. Eventually, though, they died of heart attacks.
Millions of men and boys know what it's like to have enlarged breasts (sometimes called man boobs or "moobs," or, in doctor talk, gynecomastia). In many cases, it doesn't have to be a permanent condition.
Why It Happens
Male breast enlargement can start in puberty as hormone levels are shifting. In those cases, it typically doesn't last long, ending without treatment as hormone levels settle down.
Enlarged breasts can also start in adulthood. As men age, they tend to lose testosterone and gain weight. Lower testosterone can lead to enlargement of glands in the breasts. Extra weight adds fatty tissue under the breasts. That can leave a man with bigger glandular tissue and more fat in his breasts. Fat cells make small amounts of estrogen, which can further enlarge men's breasts.