Many plastic surgeons link "man boobs" to marijuana

Many plastic surgeons link "man boobs" to marijuana

A plastic surgeon reports to CNN that a young man in his 20s complained, "I have man boobs," and that this problem had been getting worse over the last couple of years. The doctor noticed a familiar sweet smell, reminding him of rock concerts, wafting from the patient's body. He advised his patient, "The first thing you need to do is stop smoking pot. Marijuana could be causing your man boobs."

You may be surprised to know that gynecomastia, the technical name for male breast enlargement, is a problem in 33 percent to 41 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 45. It is most common during the early teen years, affecting a whopping 60 percent of 14-year-old boys. At the opposite end of the age spectrum, it's also very prevalent in men who are 50 and older, affecting 55 percent to 60 percent.

Link between gynecomastia and marijuana

  • Gynecomastia results from a hormone imbalance between estrogen and testosterone.
  • Animal studies have shown that exposure to marijuana can result in a decrease in testosterone levels, a reduction of testicular size and sperm abnormalities.
  • When the ratio between testosterone and estrogen tips in favor of estrogen, the body creates excessive breast tissue.
  • Therefore, a link between man boobs and marijuana use appears plausible.

What about studies in humans?

  • In humans, the effects of marijuana on testosterone and estrogen levels aren't as clear.
  • Lower testosterone levels have been reported in chronic marijuana users compared with nonusers, but not all studies support this.
  • Few studies have examined a direct causative effect between smoking marijuana and gynecomastia.

Bottom line

If there is a true link between smoking pot and gynecomastia, we should expect to see an increase in gynecomastia treatments in states that have legalized marijuana. Until then most plastic surgeons are proceeding with caution and recommending that patients with "man boobs" stop smoking marijuana.

Most cases of gynecomastia improve by themselves within a few months to a few years. If not, plastic surgery is an option. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), in 2012 nearly 23,000 people underwent surgery to correct the condition. In fact, it was the fifth-most common cosmetic surgery in men.