What are the Causes of Gynaecomastia?

What is Gynaecomastia?

Gynaecomastia is a condition that can occur in men of any age. It results in the development of mammary glands and extra tissue forming around the nipples. Gynaecomastia can occur at any stage of a male’s life, although it is most commonly found in new-borns, during puberty, and in the elderly.
Photo of male with severe asymmetrical gynecomastia

Possible Causes of Gynaecomastia

There is no single cause for gynaecomastia. While the symptoms are largely the same, the causes can vary, which is why it is important to see your GP if you are worried about any extra growth. Hormone imbalances, drug use (prescription or otherwise) and other conditions that affect the production of testosterone are among the many causes.

In Infants

New-borns may have a certain amount of breast tissue due to oestrogen transference between mother and child. This may last a couple of weeks before the breast tissue reduces.

During Puberty

Hormone imbalances during puberty may cause some males to develop breast tissue. This is because of fluctuating hormone levels. All men produce a certain amount of oestrogen; however, their testosterone is usually high enough to prevent breasts from forming. If testosterone levels drop during puberty, breasts may become visible, though they will usually return to normal between the ages 16-18.

In the Elderly

As men grow older the body's production of testosterone begins to slow. With many older men not able to do strenuous exercise, body fat may begin to form, which in turn, increases oestrogen levels within the body and therefore causes breast growth.

Drugs (adverse effects)

Some prescription drugs used as diuretics or drugs for heart conditions can inhibit breast growth in men. Spironolactone (Aldactone), Digoxin and Furosemide (Lasix) are among the drugs that may cause gynaecomastia. Anabolic steroid use in body building can lead to pure glandular gynaecomastia.

Underlying Conditions

The development of breasts in males may be due to an underlying cause such as testicular cancer, which affects the testosterone levels. It is important to check for lumps regularly, especially if you develop breast tissue. If in doubt, visit your G.P.


Though not technically gynaecomastia, overweight males can gain extra fatty tissue in the breast area. Unlike gynaecomastia, this extra tissue can be burnt off by maintaining a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise.


As stated above, there are many cases in which the extra tissue will eventually disappear. For many people this area of men's health may be relatively unknown, and the development of breast tissue can be distressing. Thus, it is important for you to visit a general physician just to discuss about the available options.

Breast reduction surgery is a procedure that involves the removal of any extra tissue in the chest area. The treatment is quick, but may result in scarring, uneven appearance or loss of sensation in the nipples. However, the reduction surgery is usually not performed unless there is a clear need for it, for example, if you have had gynaecomastia for a long time, or it is causing severe levels of distress.

There are also several drugs available to treat hormone imbalances, though this should be discussed with your GP.

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