What the Yuck: Normal-weight guys with breasts
September 9th, 2011
04:48 PM ET

What the Yuck: Normal-weight guys with breasts

Too embarrassed to ask your doctor about sex, body quirks, or the latest celeb health fad? In a regular feature and a new book, "What the Yuck?!," Health magazine medical editor Dr. Roshini Raj tackles your most personal and provocative questions. Send 'em to Dr. Raj at whattheyuck@health.com.

Why do some normal-weight guys have breasts?

Gynecomastia - or enlarged breast tissue in men - is caused by an imbalance of estrogen and testosterone. All men produce small amounts of estrogen and larger amounts of testosterone (the opposite is true for women). If the amount of estrogen increases or the amount of testosterone decreases, the breast tissue could swell or grow, creating breasts.

Age can be one factor. A hormonal imbalance can occur spontaneously during puberty or as a man ages. In fact, most men with gynecomastia are between 50 and 80. In the case of pubescent teenagers, the hormones usually balance out, and the breast size will return to normal within a year.

Medicines, like antidepressants, anti-ulcer meds, and prostate and heart meds can also cause this condition. Other culprits include alcohol, marijuana, or anabolic steroids.

Several health conditions can also cause men to develop breasts. These include hyperthyroidism, liver or kidney failure, and tumors, especially those on the adrenal or pituitary glands.

This is usually a very sensitive subject with guys. Between the shame they feel and the ridicule they get from others, it's often hard for them to seek out help. But a good doctor should be able to pinpoint the cause and treat it through lifestyle changes or medications to control the hormones. In rare cases, the excess breast tissue doesn't respond to treatment, but if the guy wants to, he can have it removed surgically

Copyright Health Magazine 2011

soundoff (81 Responses)
  1. a

    It's called things that mimic estrogen and they are ubiquitous in our society! Everything has soy in it – start reading labels – soy oil, soy lecithen, we're told soy milk is good, soy hot dogs etc. Then there's the plastics that have estrogenic properties that everything is wrapped or bottled in. Check out Ori Hofmekler's work to learn more about how to reduce your estrogen load so you don't have man boobs!!

    September 9, 2011 at 17:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tammy

      I agree about the estrogens/phytoestrogens in our foods. Another source that I have read about is birth control hormones in drinking water. Waste water treatment kills bacteria, removes particles, algea... but it does not remove estrogens that originate from the urine of women using oral birth control or peri/post-menopausel HRT.

      September 9, 2011 at 21:46 | Report abuse |
    • mark preisman

      100% correct! xenoestrogens are the end of us.

      September 10, 2011 at 20:00 | Report abuse |
    • karrie pittsburgh

      Seriously, some folks don't know that some thyroids and soy are not good friends. I have CFIDS and when I was trying soy milk years ago, I was crashing a lot worse. My thyroid is soy-sensitive. (Parents of babies should be careful with soy milk/formulas, it can interfere with thyroid.) Then I had sudden onset severe perimenopause and had a reaction to my BHRT. So no estrogens for me. I'm not surprised it's happening to men too, with all the stuff in foods.

      September 10, 2011 at 20:55 | Report abuse |
    • Alan

      It's in the meat and dairy. Do some research on how they get cows to produce such mega amounts of milk and how they get chickens to mature in 4 to 6 weeks. Massive amounts of hormones are used and are present in the meat and milk from these animals.

      September 11, 2011 at 01:06 | Report abuse |
    • Meagen

      True, soy does have some estrogen-like properties, however, dairy contains much more. Think about it...

      September 12, 2011 at 14:00 | Report abuse |
  2. tom

    alcohol and coffee will create it in no time

    September 9, 2011 at 17:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. MIke

    Is it me or does that guy have a normal chest? Why is that picture included?

    September 9, 2011 at 17:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mary

      ...because they couldn't find a professional model with man-boobs! 😉

      September 9, 2011 at 20:44 | Report abuse |
    • Let's Produce

      The profiled photo is of a normal chest. Any guy who does any chest work (ie. pushups, bench press) will look like the photo shown. Most guys with Gynecomastia probably hide from camera's which may be why they couldn't find a photo to represent the condition.

      September 9, 2011 at 22:07 | Report abuse |
    • Stan

      That guy has a very handsome chest! It's not you.

      September 10, 2011 at 10:32 | Report abuse |
    • Ben

      They must have picked it because nobody wants to look at moobs, even in an article about moobs.

      September 10, 2011 at 11:20 | Report abuse |
    • JeramieH

      > Any guy who does any chest work
      Building up chest muscles will make it worse, because the chest muscles will push out the layer of fat even further. Surely most people by now realize that there's no such thing as targeting fat reduction in specific areas.

      September 11, 2011 at 14:27 | Report abuse |
    • CM

      Same reason Cosmo exists. The advertising wonderkids realized that if they could make billions selling garbage health and "beauty" products to women, they could probably do the same to men. So you link an article about moobs to a picture of a normal guy and now even normal guys start worrying about their moobs and buying fad diets and lipo and other nonsense.

      September 22, 2011 at 19:24 | Report abuse |
    • iamthefredman

      Really.I always wished my chest would look like that guys. I got a flat skinny body and chest that never got "manly" no matter how many freaking execises I did.

      September 26, 2011 at 14:12 | Report abuse |
  4. Josephine Shaffer

    I like large Breast on me so if i have to wear a bra no big deal for me.

    September 9, 2011 at 22:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Josephine Shaffer

    The bigger the Breast the better so i'll look feminine that's the i want it i'll be happyi will call the boobs i'm wearing a bra right now i would like it a cup size d.

    September 9, 2011 at 22:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Carla

    It's the desire to honor God and to fight for the well-being of weaker ones and the strong sense of purpose that looks beyond the universe make a man manly, not just the tough-looking. Selfishness makes any man feminine. On the other hand, woman should not be ambitious and attacky but generous and graceful. Grace in manners – that makes a woman womanly, not just beautiful. We all have our own assignments.

    September 10, 2011 at 00:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Really?

      So, selfishness is a feminine quality now? Cut the misogynistic drivel.

      September 11, 2011 at 23:05 | Report abuse |
    • tnayew

      I can live with that.

      August 8, 2014 at 03:08 | Report abuse |
  7. Carla

    Man, be a man from inside. God made you honorable. No one in the entire universe can humiliate you except by your own compromise to selfish fear or self-centered-ness. Always be ready to give your life for what is right. (Otherwise, we humans usually end up doing wrong.) Every man and woman carries pains that you don't see. Be brave and be a helping hand like a real man. Who cares what humans say or view when God gave you a noble purpose to live as a man?

    September 10, 2011 at 00:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Taking a break from the mirror

      I do NOT recall giving my permission to use a picture of my chest for this article.

      September 11, 2011 at 21:38 | Report abuse |
    • tnayew

      I can live with that too.

      August 8, 2014 at 03:09 | Report abuse |
  8. observation

    I think this can happen to women. When they hit menopause, hormone imbalances can occur. Sometimes that can be frightening. For example, hormone fluctuations can cause lactation – which is normal. It's scarey when it happens on only one breast. Then you have to have it diagnosed to make sure it's not cancer. Apparently, if the discharge is white, you're okay. A lot of women lactate from only one breast if they have only one child and that child accepts only one breast. Poor mom is lop-sided, and lactating. They say this is normal?

    September 10, 2011 at 05:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. daddy

    I'm screwed. I take lexapro, drink coffee, alcohol, and I'm 58. Better start shopping for a bro.

    September 10, 2011 at 08:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      It's a "manziere" 🙂

      September 11, 2011 at 14:14 | Report abuse |
    • mrPhillipKarnes

      I prefer bro

      September 12, 2011 at 10:57 | Report abuse |
  10. Let's Produce

    Gay chest? That's funny. Plenty of men have little to no hair on their chest. Your apparently one of those Macho guys who thinks real men look like gorillas. I'll bet you probably wear a big gold neck chain as well. Keep living in your own dream world.

    September 10, 2011 at 11:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Fired Up

    @Frankfoe: I bet you're a closet man lover, huh? Either you are posting from your parents basement, or while you're watching your neighbor and putting lipstick on.

    September 10, 2011 at 15:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • frankfoe

      Relax my gay friend, be proud of what you are. I was just saying that any man who shaves his chest is a fruitcake.

      September 11, 2011 at 20:30 | Report abuse |
    • hkuwvzjtnl

      Muchas gracias. ?Como puedo iniciar sesion?

      March 9, 2021 at 17:19 | Report abuse |
  12. belle

    @ Carla. What the hell does that have to do with the man boob issue?

    September 10, 2011 at 16:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Take it from me

    Most women and men suffer hormone imbalances in our culture. The quality of our food, and the poor food choices we make, lead to imbalances and in particular, states of estrogen excess or imbalances far exceeding healthy physiological ranges. In men this proliferative hormone promotes prostatic hypertrophy, and ever-widening belt girth, man-boobs, and yes, shrinking gonads. And you'll probably shave less. Men, you will find it a shock to learn that big gut you cart around is actually an estrogen factory compounding the effects of the phyto and xeno estrogens you take into your body from your poor diet. "Man-up" by cleaning up your diet for starters. You'll be amazed at the benefits.

    September 11, 2011 at 00:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Omar

    Soy causes man boobs? You people are imbeciles. Overeating causes man boobs more than anything else.

    September 11, 2011 at 02:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lori

      No need to call ppl names Omar, especially when they are right and you are wrong. It doesn't take a ton of up to date reading about health issues to know that soy is problematic. Try doing a little reading before you jump into a conversation. Also, in the interest of good manners, even if you find something said that you know to be wrong, try some polite disagreement followed by something to back up your claim.

      September 11, 2011 at 10:40 | Report abuse |
  15. Bobby

    Something your Alcohol Pusher will never tell you, drinking Alcohol cause estrogen production in men causing beer bellies and male boobs!!

    September 11, 2011 at 13:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Bob

    How do you know that to be true?

    September 11, 2011 at 15:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Rainey

    Men "wished" they had chests like this picture....someone is clueless. An appropriate photo should have been used. Maybe men in this country are so use to seeing silicone breasts, they don't know what a r
    eal one looks like when they see it.

    September 11, 2011 at 15:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Andy

      That picture is completely unrealistic. And his chest is freshly shaved. Are men not supposed to have chest hair now? What is it with women wanting men to look like boys?

      September 12, 2011 at 16:29 | Report abuse |
  18. frankfoe

    "Lets produce" is gay and he shaves his chest

    September 11, 2011 at 20:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. BeefJerky

    In a related article, certain foods can cause hormonal imbalances leading to women growing johnsons!

    September 11, 2011 at 22:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Santa Claus

      This Comment is LADY GAGA approved!

      September 12, 2011 at 10:29 | Report abuse |
  20. frankfool

    frankfoe.........What a Maroon!

    September 11, 2011 at 23:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Josh

    True. Men are suppose to have hair on their chests. If you don't like hairy chests, then stick with young boys.

    September 12, 2011 at 07:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Diggler

    I am pretty sure my man boobs came from smoking marijuana when I was a teenager. I am not overweight and am in over good health, but boy do I have some embarrasing man cans – aka b itch t it. I hate the beach, the swimming pool or anything where people might see me without my shirt on. Some shirts even show it off. I where two shirts normally to hide it. It sucks. Ruins your life. Hate it.

    September 12, 2011 at 11:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Chris

    Welcome to our polluted and poisonous society.

    September 12, 2011 at 12:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. erich2112x

    Can i give em' a squeeze?

    September 12, 2011 at 12:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Tom, Long Beach, California

    Frank, any one of these hairless men could make your wife scream altough she never has with you...easy to see why!

    September 12, 2011 at 12:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • frankfool

      I know Frank and his wife is a man. His wife does have hair on his chest. Franks a little envious since his wife has more hair than he has. The other commenter was correct in that Frank does wear a very large Gold medallion.

      September 13, 2011 at 01:09 | Report abuse |
  26. PixelFish

    Way to be professional and classy, CNN, by discussing a medical condition under the headline What the Yuck. It's not as if there are real people with this condition who aren't being shamed or people who lack information who are being scared or grossed out. It's certainly not as if the article itself even notes that this is a sensitive issue. But no, when you snagged the article from Health, you just had to give it a sensatiionalist headline. *slow clap*

    September 12, 2011 at 14:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JG

      I agree,

      I don't understand why journalism sometimes strays from it's objective roots. Think about it: if every news article merely stayed objective rather than using subjective language, they could:

      1.) appeal to a broader audience, therefore increasing traffic and advertising revenue
      2.) promote a sense of education among readers rather than an attempt to control opinions
      3.) kindle a culture of inquiry as people would have to read between the lines and form their own opinions (i.e., man boobs are "yuck" or man boobs are not a big deal) by their own thought... not from reading a headline article.

      So yes, I agree with you. In so many ways, news sources should just try to weed out perjorative (sp?) language, like scientific fields attempt to do.

      September 29, 2011 at 22:04 | Report abuse |
  27. Eric Nixon

    If I grow boobs I'll never have to leave the house again.

    September 12, 2011 at 16:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Greg

      That was an old George Carlin joke.

      Noting that cats can lick themselves, he said, "If I could do that I'd never leave the apartment."

      September 13, 2011 at 02:01 | Report abuse |
  28. Ron

    A healthy diet and certain types of exercises help get rid of man boobs. Though it's usually genetic, with enough hard work and motivation – and a few good tricks. They can be dealt with naturally. Nothing gained happens without it being earned. http://www.manzido.com

    September 13, 2011 at 01:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Greg

    "What the Yuck: Normal-weight guys with breasts"

    The good news is that they can share the breast feeding duties with their wives

    September 13, 2011 at 02:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Greg

    The guy in the picture just looks like a dedicated bench presser.

    Real cases of this syndrome are embarrassing for the sufferers.

    September 13, 2011 at 02:05 | Report abuse | Reply
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    June 27, 2021 at 10:55 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.