Gynecomastia Treatment: Exercise vs. Surgery

Gynecomastia is a hormonal condition that affects males, most often adolescents. It results in overly large breasts in one or both breasts. Although it is often temporary, particularly for boys, it can still be a source of insecurity.

At Jefferson Plastic Surgery, we understand patients with gynecomastia are looking for options to correct this problem. One of the more common questions we hear is if exercise or weight loss will reduce the size of the breasts.

While it true that males who are overweight often also have overly large breasts, that is an entirely different issue from gynecomastia. Read further to learn about the causes of gynecomastia, how to treat it, and why weight loss through exercise may not be the optimal solution to the problem.

What Causes Gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia is the result of a hormone imbalance, in which there is more estrogen than testosterone. Excess estrogen can lead to development of secondary female sex characteristics, such as enlarged breasts, due to overdeveloped glandular tissue.

Part of the reason this condition is so prevalent in adolescent males is due to the normal fluctuations of hormones associated with the growth spurt during puberty.

However, there are several other health issues that can result in gynecomastia, including:

  • Malnutrition
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Testicular cancer
  • Chronic renal failure
  • Hyperthyroidism

Hormone treatments for prostate cancer or certain skin-care products with lavender or tea-tree oil may also play a role in the development of gynecomastia.

Standard Treatment Options

If gynecomastia is the result of a drug interaction, such as estrogen therapy for prostate cancer, there are medications that can correct the condition.

Two of the more popular drugs for this are tamoxifen and raloxifene, normally used for breast cancer in women. However, they are not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for gynecomastia and can have serious side effects. They are particularly dangerous for adolescents, whose bodies are still going through rapid growth changes.

The other option is surgery to remove the excess glandular tissue. During this procedure, an incision is made in the breast area, and some tissue is removed to produce a more masculine appearance.

Can Exercise Treat Gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia cannot be treated with exercise or weight loss. However, if the cause of the enlarged male breasts is excess weight, diet and exercise will certainly help.

The male and female breasts consist of fat cells and glandular cells. Under normal circumstances, the male breast glands do not contain enough estrogen to result in an increase in size.

With gynecomastia, these glands become overstimulated and produce excess estrogen. Since gynecomastia is the result of excess glandular tissue, which will not respond to weight loss or exercise, surgery is performed to treat the condition.

In addition, exercises that are designed to build up the pectoral muscles, such as butterflies or chest presses, may actually make the male breasts look even larger. This is because the chest will protrude further outward if the size of the pectoral muscles increases, due to weight training.

To find out if male breast reduction surgery is the right option for you, contact Jefferson Plastic Surgery today.

Questions? Email us today.

To make or reschedule an appointment please complete the form below or call:  (215) 625-6630.

CALL US TODAY: (215)625-6630


Jefferson Plastic Surgery is located on the corner of 9th and Walnut streets in Center City, Philadelphia on the 15th floor of the Wills Eye Hospital Building.

Jefferson Plastic Surgery
840 Walnut Street - 15th Floor
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107
Phone: (215) 625-6630
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