Epidemic of Man Boobs?

New York gynecomastia

According to an online source of news from India, there’s a dramatic increase in the cases of gynecomastia in that country. An issue of Firstpost India last month called it an “epidemic” of man boobs, and posed the question whether Bollywood or diet is to blame.

While there’s much that makes sense in this article, there’s one assumption that deserves a closer look. The reporter suggested that “a sudden rise in the demand for breast reduction by men” in Delhi indicates that India has a growing problem with gynecomastia. This correlation is drawn often, not just to describe what’s happening in India, but here in the U.S. and in other countries too. More men seeking surgery for moobs must mean there are more guys with enlarged breasts these days, right?

Maybe and maybe not.

The problem with this statement is that there’s no easy way to determine how many cases of man boobs there are in a given area. After all, there’s no survey guys take when they get a license to drive or register for military service.

We believe the increasing numbers of male breast reduction surgeries reported anecdotally by plastic surgeons in India are associated with two other trends:

– Growing acceptance and demand for cosmetic surgery in general

Certainly here in the U.S. (and in Bollywood as well), broadcast and print media have contributed to the expanding popularity of cosmetic surgery. The Firstpost India article points out that not everyone gains a healthy interest, which is true. But with increased exposure comes growing knowledge as well. Nowadays, average people tend to understand that most cosmetic procedures have the power to help people feel great about their appearance and are very safe.

– Increasing awareness that there’s no need to simply live with man boobs

As cosmetic surgery hit the mainstream, interest in specific procedures intensified. Speaking of gynecomastia, the New York media has requested we discuss the topic several times to help educate locals.

The Internet has become a fertile source of information for guys with man boobs. You can find general information on gynecomastia on well-regarded medical websites, browse what plastic surgeons have to say and join communities such as the one on gynecomastia.org where you can share thoughts with other guys.

Of course, the online article does raise some concerns about Indian citizens’ lifestyle that are valid. One is the country’s rate of obesity. The article notes that India has the third highest number of overweight and obese people, behind the U.S. and China, and excess fat and man boobs go hand in hand in many cases.

Another factor may be an increase in steroid use. A plastic surgeon quoted in the article notes that some of his patients have used steroids or supplements laced with hormones in an effort to achieve the ideal body. Although much is still not understood about the causes of man boobs, steroids and other substances that disrupt the endocrine system are known contributors.

Having performed gynecomastia surgery in New York for more than thirty years, we have been witness to this “perfect storm” of trends. Our thoughts are these:

Do more men have moobs than ever before? Given the rate of obesity and the popularity of steroids and supplements, the answer is “probably.”

Are there more patients looking to banish man boobs with gynecomastia surgery? There’s no doubt about it, the answer is “certainly.” Statistics from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons agree: male breast reduction is on the increase and is the third most popular cosmetic procedure for U.S. men.

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