Study Reveals Psychological Impact of Enlarged Breasts on Teen Boys
The April issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), reports on a new study of the effects of gynecomastia on adolescents. Not surprisingly, the study’s leader, Dr. Brian Labow, and his colleagues at Boston Children’s Hospital found that enlarged breasts have a negative impact on self-esteem and other emotional health areas for teens.
To say the researchers’ findings are not surprising is perhaps an understatement. Anyone who knows that adolescent boys occasionally develop persistent enlarged breasts can easily infer that the condition can be devastating. This is a vulnerable time of life, and a formative one as well. Being teased or even bullied and feeling ashamed can have lasting consequences.
For plastic surgeons who specialize in male breast reduction, including our practice here in New York, gynecomastia and its affect on the adolescent psyche should be relatively well understood. The new study offers additional insights, however, that can be useful for us, for parents and for prospective patients.
The researchers studied a group of 47 boys being evaluated for gynecomastia against a control group of adolescents without the condition. Well over half the individuals in the gynecomastia group were overweight or obese (and undoubtedly weight issues caused or contributed to enlarged breasts for at least some). The 47 subjects scored lower on quality of life measurements than boys in the control group – including self-esteem and social functioning. But interestingly, the researchers found that the subjects low scores related directly to their gynecomastia rather than to being overweight.
Another finding that gives food for thought is that the boys being seen for gynecomastia suffered similar negative impacts on quality of life regardless of the severity of their physical condition. It seems that merely having man boobs was enough to cause deficits in several areas when compared to the control group.
Young men with enlarged breasts should be evaluated with care. There are several physical and psychological aspects for the plastic surgeon to consider. This study adds a few more, showing that whether or not weight is a factor and regardless of the degree of gynecomastia, teen boys may suffer to the point where cosmetic surgery is indicated. After all, as Dr. Labow pointed out, the procedure is safe and straightforward when done by an experienced, board certified plastic surgeon.
We could not agree more with some of the researcher’s final thoughts: careful and regular evaluation for young men with gynecomastia is the best course of action. Read more about the study on the ASPS website, and read our views on treating adolescents here. If you would like us to evaluate your case, or if you're looking for expert input for your son, give us a call at 212-570-6080. We see many young men each year and help them and their parents make decisions.