Doobs to man Boobs?
Los Angeles has its share of pot shops. It also has its share of gynecomsastia. Gynecomastia is also referred to in the lay literature as “man boobs”. It is an embarrassing condition that has been linked to many things, including marijuana. But does smoking a dooby give men boobies? And how is it treated?
Normal Vs Abnormal Breast Tissue
While it may not surprise you that male breasts exists, what may surprise you is that male breast cancer exists. Make no mistake, men have breast tissue. But normally the breast tissue in men are not to the proportion that exists in women. Excessive benign growth of male breast tissue in itself is generally not harmful physically. But, the emotional side effects can be devastating.
Development of Gynecomastia
Gynecomastia may develop abnormally from conditions associated with disease from the liver or thyroid. It can be the result of various metabolic disorders, hormonal disturbances, or as a side-effect of certain medications. And it may be a result of the natural decrease of testosterone production in older males.
Can Smoking pot Cause Gynecomastia?
There are often claims of gynecomastia developing from drugs such as marijuana. But is this founded on any real evidence? Well, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) according to some in the field report that this drug lowers testosterone setting the stage for gynecomastia.
But, the jury is still out on this debate. Other scientists offer that THC promotes the release of a hormone called prolactin from the pituitary gland. The University of California reports that this THC generated prolactin secretion signals for breast growth in men. Hence, it makes sense that sustained high levels of prolactin as a result of regular THC exposure may eventually lead to gynecomastia in some men.
The University of Texas Health Science Center reports that between 10 and 25 percent of gynecomastia cases are caused by marijuana and other drug use.
Treatment of Gynecomastia
Make no mistake, whatever the cause of man boobs, in adolescent boys and adults the condition is often a source of distress. Fortunately, in most cases of pubescent gynecomastia that are not severe or not due to obesity, the condition may very well simply disappear without treatment.
If gynecomastia perseveres, it is generally managed with surgery. The most common surgery includes the surgical excision of the breast gland and liposuction. According to plastic surgery literature, when excision is not performed in severe cases, the recurrence rate may be as high as 35%.
Naturally, the procedure has the best outcome when performed by plastic surgeons who have experience performing gynecomastia surgery. When done correctly, often with combination of excision of tissue behind the nipple and aggressive liposuction, recurrence is rare.
Medications – can They Work?
Of note, medications are hardly effective for mature gynecomastia that is larger than 1 inch in diameter, or in cases where the gynecomastia is in existence for longer than six months. And liposuction alone, while critically important to improve the cosmesis of the chest wall, does not remove the breast gland. Instead, it is used to remove the surrounding adipose tissue. But, liposuction is often considered paramount in improving the aesthetics of the chest wall in men with gynecomastia. When gynecomastia is so severe that the breasts hangs, sometimes skin excision is also warranted.
Medication therapy alone may help in very early gynecomastia cases for which an etiology or cause has been well established. But, for the large majority of cases medications are either not indicated or don’t work well in reducing the male breasts.
Other Non-Surgical Treatments
Other non-surgical “treatments “ of male breasts include compression garmets which can camouflage chest deformity and stabilize bouncing tissue. Despite the profound psychological implications of men with breasts, or as the affected diva celebrity Dr. Bill Gordon calls them, “MWTs”, or “men with titties”, insurance doesn’t cover gynecomastia surgery.
Most American insurance companies deny coverage for surgery for gynecomastia treatment or male breast reduction on the basis that it is a purely cosmetic procedure, which of course, is a complete falsehood. The treatment of male breasts in men is equally psychological by improving self esteem and body image.
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Dr. Tim Neavin is a board-certified plastic surgeon located in Beverly Hills, California.