Breast development in boys, also known as gynecomastia, is a common condition that usually occurs during puberty. It is caused by an imbalance of hormones, specifically an increase in estrogen or a decrease in testosterone, and can lead to the development of breast tissue in males.
In most cases, gynecomastia is not a serious medical problem and does not cause any long-term health effects. It often resolves on its own within a few months to a few years. However, in some cases, gynecomastia can be a sign of an underlying medical condition, such as a hormonal imbalance, liver or kidney disease, or certain types of cancer.
If breast development in boys is causing significant discomfort or emotional distress, or if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as pain, tenderness, or discharge from the nipples, it is important to seek medical advice from a healthcare professional. They can perform a physical examination, order laboratory tests to evaluate hormone levels, and determine whether any underlying medical conditions are present.
In most cases, treatment for gynecomastia is not necessary. However, in some cases, medication or surgery may be recommended to correct the hormonal imbalance or remove excess breast tissue. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the best course of treatment based on individual circumstances.
A reader asks us about breast development in her boy
My son has a lump in his breast right behind the nipple. We were told it is nothing to worry about, that it is normal in 12- to 14-year-old boys. Is normal this breast development?Eleanor from Bristol, Virginia
The true about Breast development in boys
Your son is not alone. Fully 60-70% of male teens experience breast enlargement (gynecomastia) between 12-15 years of age. Breast development in boys, including the presence of a lump behind the nipple, is actually quite common during puberty and is usually not a cause for concern. This condition is called gynecomastia and is caused by hormonal changes in the body.
Breast tissue grows whenever the ratio of the body’s estrogen is increased relative to the body’s androgen. Although estrogen is thought of as the female hormone and androgen the male hormone, males and females have both in differing amounts.
During puberty, boys experience an increase in the hormone estrogen, which can cause breast tissue to grow. This is often temporary and typically goes away on its own within a few months to a few years. In most cases, gynecomastia is not a serious medical problem and does not cause any long-term health effects.
Early in a boy’s pubertal development, he has not yet experienced much androgen secretion. Because he has relatively more estrogen present in his body, one or both breasts may be stimulated to enlarge. The breast enlargement disappears spontaneously within 6-24 months.
Less commonly, medical conditions such as tumors, thyroid disease and marijuana or heroin abuse can cause pathologic male breast enlargement.
However, in rare cases, a lump behind the nipple in boys could be a sign of an underlying medical condition such as a tumor, so it’s always best to have your son evaluated by a healthcare professional to confirm the diagnosis and rule out any underlying issues.
If your son’s lump has been evaluated by a healthcare professional who has determined it is gynecomastia and there are no other concerning symptoms or signs, then it is likely nothing to worry about and will likely resolve on its own. However, if the lump grows or becomes painful, or if there are any other concerning symptoms or signs, you should consult with your healthcare professional again for further evaluation.
What is the connection between gynecomastia and transgenders?
Gynecomastia is a medical condition that causes breast tissue to grow in males. It is a separate issue from gender identity and does not necessarily indicate gender dysphoria or being transgender.
However, breast development caused by gynecomastia can be a source of distress for some individuals, including those who are transgender. This is because it can be a physical manifestation of a gender identity that does not match the individual’s biological sex. For some, treatment of gynecomastia may be part of their gender-affirming care.
According to the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) Standards of Care, the treatment of gynecomastia in transgender individuals may involve hormone therapy, surgery, or both, depending on the individual’s goals and medical needs. WPATH emphasizes that the treatment of gynecomastia should be individualized and based on the individual’s gender identity, medical history, and personal goals.