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Understanding gynecomastia: Common causes of the male breast

Jun 29, 2012, 8:27 a.m.

Gynecomastia is the medical name that's given to describe breast enlargement in males. It can have a variety of causes and can come on at different times during a man's life, from infanthood to adolescence to adulthood and beyond. If you're a male over 55 that's experiencing gynecomastica, it could be the result of a number of different causes.

These are the most common causes of breast enlargement in males:

  1. Aging and natural changes in the body's hormonal chemistry
  2. Hormone treatment used to fight prostate cancer
  3. Chemotherapy treatment for cancer patients
  4. Liver disease
  5. Anabolic steroid use
  6. Dialysis and/or kidney failure
  7. Smoking marijuana
  8. Deficiency of testosterone
  9. Medication side effects

Some of the drugs that can cause breast enlargement in men are ketoconazole, spironolactone, metronidazole, and cimetidine. If you're taking any of these medications and are experiencing an enlargement of your breasts, discuss possible treatment alternatives with your doctor. In these situations, the breast enlargement isn't permanent and will subside once you've stopped taking the medication.

Symptoms of breast cancer in men

Naturally, the reality of breast enlargement in males leads to the question: are men who experience gynecomastia at greater risk for developing breast cancer? The fact is, breast cancer is rare in men but it does happen. Here are a few signs that could indicate if you should be concerned about that.

  1. Uneven growth of the breasts with one larger than the other.
  2. A discharge of blood from the nipple
  3. External skin ulcers
  4. The presence of a lump

If you experience any of the symptoms or have any reason for concern, be sure to talk to your doctor to get a complete physical checkup. In the majority of cases, gynecomastia doesn't mean that you will develop breast cancer. But it's always best to play it safe where your health is concerned.

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