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Male Breast Enlargement May Be Common

Condition Known as Gynecomastia May Occur in Nearly Half of Men
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Gynecomastia in Puberty continued...

Recently, doctors have found that use of products containing lavender oil or tea tree oil may trigger breast growth in preteen boys, says Braunstein, citing a study published earlier in 2007. The boys who developed the breast growth had been using a lavender oil skin balm, a hair gel with lavender and tea tree oils, or lavender-scented soap and skin lotions. When they stopped using the products, their breasts returned to normal within a few months.

After ruling out other conditions, a pediatrician typically suggests waiting to see if the gynecomastia disappears, Braunstein says, typically telling the patient to return in three months.

"About 95% of the time, this [condition during puberty] will disappear within three to six months," he says.

Another expert, Yong Bao, MD, assistant professor of pediatric endocrinology at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, agrees that "tincture of time" often works. The smaller the growth, the more likely it will go away, Bao says. "After the peak of puberty, it usually goes away," he says.

"Most teens do not need any therapy," Braunstein says. But if the breasts are very tender and the patient is bothered by a large degree of growth, doctors may suggest taking tamoxifen, used in breast cancer treatment, Braunstein says. It works by interfering with the activity of estrogen on the breast cells, thus stopping the growth. While tamoxifen is not officially approved for this purpose, it's used "off-label," which is legal. A course of three months of the drug is typical, he says.

About 60% of teens and adults who take tamoxifen have complete regression of the growth, Braunstein says, citing published studies, and about 80% have at least partial regression.

If tamoxifen does not work, male breast reduction or liposuction can be done.

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