Gynecomastia Risks: Which Are Worth It?
We’re sometimes asked about the risks of taking certain medications and other possible man boobs triggers in our New York gynecomastia consultation room and by people online. Whether a substance is a known or suspected contributor to male breast enlargement, some may be worth taking the risk and some, not so much. Here are our views.
Some medications used to treat serious conditions such as prostate cancer, HIV/AIDS and heart disease have been linked to gynecomastia. The American Family Physician and Mayo Clinic websites offer good information about prescription drugs that can cause breast enlargement—check them out for more information.
It goes without saying that if you have a disease that potentially threatens your life, developing man boobs should not be high on your list of things to worry about.
Our recommendation on these medications: Worth the risk, absolutely!
Marketed under the name Propecia or Proscar, finasteride is prescribed to treat hair loss. Breast growth is a known side effect though it occurs in a small number of patients. If you’re considering taking the drug, our first recommendation would be to read all the information you can find about its effectiveness and the potential risks involved. We wrote an article you can start with here.
Going bald and developing moobs can both be detrimental to a guy’s self-image. Is one more upsetting to you than the other? What if you were among the guys who took finasteride and then needed male breast reduction surgery?
Our recommendation on finasteride: Your choice.
The anti-psychotic drug Risperdal and its cousin Invega have been much in the news in medical circles these past few years. The manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, was found to have committed more than one crime in marketing the medication including failing to adequately warn doctors and patients about breast tissue growth as a side effect. This has proved to be a devastating development for some guys who already face struggles in their lives.
These drugs are prescribed for both adults and children to treat conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. While it’s not our place to overrule the advice of another physician, we do believe there’s no harm in asking if there’s an alternative medication that might work just as well with fewer side effects.
Our recommendation: Work with your doctors to make the choice that’s right for you.
We see our share of guys who enjoy bodybuilding in New York, and gynecomastia comes along with the hobby when steroids are involved. We understand that for some men, a strong, chiseled body is an important life goal. The lifestyle often includes participation in bodybuilding forums, following the topic in the media and even entering competitions.
Immersing themselves in this way of life, bodybuilders often try to plan their steroid “cycles” to avoid growing a set of moobs or “bitch tits.” Does it work? Sometimes. But we favor the input of American Family Physician: Attempts to prevent gynecomastia with the use of concomitant tamoxifen or other aromatase inhibitors may result in irreversible adverse effects.
Our recommendation: Using steroids is not worth the risk of developing gynecomastia, no matter what other measures you take to avoid breast tissue growth. The endocrine system is delicately balanced and messing with it is a bad idea in general.
Marijuana and More
Many plants contain what are known as “phytoestrogens,” literally, plant-based estrogens. They can have a mild to moderate estrogen-like effect, meaning they can contribute to cases of man boobs. Marijuana is one plant that is generally thought to play a role in some cases of enlarged male breasts, though scientists have yet to prove the connection. Other suspected triggers include lavender and tea tree oil.
There’s enough anecdotal information to suspect links between plants high in phytoestrogens to moobs that we counsel our New York gynecomastia patients to use marijuana, lavender and tea tree oil with caution, or better yet, not at all.
Our recommendation on using marijuana and other phytoestrogen-rich plants: Not worth it.
Information is King
If you’re a guy concerned about the possibility of developing man boobs, we urge you to educate yourself and apply critical thinking to what you read and hear. There are drugs and other substances linked to gynecomastia you should be aware of. On the other hand, the media can go overboard in creating hysteria from a tiny grain of truth:
Beer can give you man boobs! An article last year in the online magazine Vice claimed that beer rich in hops (such as IPA) can lead to enlarged breasts. But unless you’re a beer brewer who handles hops every single day there’s practically no risk. Hops do contain phytoestrogens, but not enough to worry beer drinkers.
Fast food causes moobs! Doctors recently claimed that fast food was behind a Chinese man’s case of gynecomastia. If you become overweight you can certainly develop man boobs, it’s true. But it doesn’t matter what you consume—too many burgers or too many carrots—its’ all the same.
As always, we are available for consultations no matter what we can help with–male breast reduction surgery or just education and decision-making assistance. Give us a call at 212-570-6080.