Gynecomastia has psychological impact on adolescent boys

April 2, 2013, Wolters Kluwer Health

Persistent breast enlargement (gynecomastia) negatively affects self-esteem and other areas of mental and emotional health in in adolescent males, reports the April issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).

Even mild gynecomastia can have adverse psychological effects in , according to the study by ASPS Member Surgeon Dr. Brian I. Labow and colleagues of Boston Children's Hospital. They believe their findings have important implications for early intervention and treatment, including male breast reduction in appropriate cases.

Study Shows Psychological Impact of Gynecomastia in Boys

The researchers administered a series of psychological tests to 47 healthy boys, average age 16.5 years, being evaluated for gynecomastia. The results were compared to those of a group of boys without breast enlargement.

Sixty-two percent of the gynecomastia patients had mild to moderate breast enlargement. As in previous studies, many of the boys with gynecomastia were overweight or obese: 64 percent, compared to 41 percent of the comparison group.

Patients with gynecomastia had lower scores on a standard quality of life assessment, indicating problems in several areas. Even after adjustment for weight and (BMI), the patients had lower scores for general health, social functioning and mental health. They also had lower scores for , but this was attributed to being overweight.

Breast enlargement was also associated with lower scores for self-esteem. This, along with impairment in emotional areas of quality of life, appeared directly related to gynecomastia, rather than being overweight.

Boys with gynecomastia also scored higher on a test of attitudes toward food and eating. However, there was no difference in the rate of clinical eating disorders between groups.

Psychosocial Effects Independent of Gynecomastia Severity

The negative psychological effects of gynecomastia were similar for boys at different levels of severity. "Merely having gynecomastia was sufficient to cause significant deficits in general health, social functioning, mental health, self-esteem, and eating behaviors and attitudes compared with controls," Dr. Labow and coauthors write.

Gynecomastia is benign enlargement of male glandular tissue that is very common in adolescent boys. Although breast enlargement usually resolves over time, the problem persists in about eight percent of boys. Typically, boys with gynecomastia who are overweight or obese may simply be advised to lose weight.

However, losing weight won't correct the problem in patients who have true glandular enlargement, or in those with a large amount of excess skin in the breast area. As shown by the new study, patients with gynecomastia may experience emotional and self-esteem issues regardless of body weight or the severity of breast enlargement.

"As a result, early intervention and treatment for gynecomastia may be necessary to improve the negative physical and emotional symptoms," Dr. Labow and coauthors state. They note that male breast reduction, performed by a qualified plastic surgeon, is typically a simple and safe procedure.

It may seem self-evident that breast enlargement could have a psychological and emotional impact on teenage boys. However, adolescent gynecomastia has historically been regarded as a "cosmetic" procedure, not reimbursed by most insurance plans. The researchers note that only 35 percent of adolescent boys undergoing surgery for gynecomastia at their hospital were covered by insurance, compared to 85 percent of girls undergoing breast reduction.

"Our results indicate that careful and regular evaluation for gynecomastia may benefit adolescents regardless of BMI status or severity of gynecomastia," Dr. Labow and colleagues conclude. They call for further studies to evaluate the effects of male , including its impact on physical and psychological symptoms.

Explore further: Reducing the side effects of treatment for prostate cancer

Related Stories

Reducing the side effects of treatment for prostate cancer

August 27, 2012
New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Medicine reassessing clinical data from trials, which investigate ways of treating side effects of therapy for prostate cancer, finds that tamoxifen, an anti-estrogen ...

Large breasts can take mental, physical toll on teens

July 16, 2012
(HealthDay) -- For many teen girls, an overly large cup size may not be such a good thing, with many reporting serious discomfort both physically and emotionally because of their large breasts.

ADHD medication can slow growth in teenage boys, study finds

January 21, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Adolescent boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to be shorter and slimmer than their same-age peers, according to a new study published in the Medical Journal of Australia ...

Plastic surgeons should be aware of patients with 'excessive concern' about appearance

July 28, 2011
Moderate to severe symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) - excessive concern about appearance that interferes with daily life - are found in 33 percent of patients seeking plastic surgery to improve the appearance of ...

Recommended for you

Drug may help surgical patients stop opioids sooner

December 13, 2017
(HealthDay)—Opioid painkillers after surgery can be the first step toward addiction for some patients. But a common drug might cut the amount of narcotics that patients need, a new study finds.

Children best placed to explain facts of surgery to patients, say experts

December 13, 2017
Getting children to design patient information leaflets may improve patient understanding before they have surgery, finds an article in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.

Burn victim saved by skin grafts from identical twin (Update)

November 23, 2017
A man doomed to die after suffering burns across 95 percent of his body was saved by skin transplants from his identical twin in a world-first operation, French doctors said Thursday.

Is a common shoulder surgery useless?

November 21, 2017
(HealthDay)—New research casts doubt on the true effectiveness of a common type of surgery used to ease shoulder pain.

Study shows electric bandages can fight biofilm infection, antimicrobial resistance

November 6, 2017
Researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center have shown - for the first time - that special bandages using weak electric fields to disrupt bacterial biofilm infection can prevent infections, combat antibiotic ...

Obesity increases incidence, severity, costs of knee dislocations

November 3, 2017
A new study of more than 19,000 knee dislocation cases in the U.S. between 2000 and 2012 provides a painful indication of how the nation's obesity epidemic is changing the risk, severity and cost of a traumatic injury.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.