Men with larger amounts of breast tissue may face a higher risk of premature death, according to a new research.
This risk is associated with conditions such as pseudogynecomastia, commonly referred to as “man boobs” due to excess weight, and gynecomastia, a hormonal condition leading to enlarged breasts.
The study, published in the journal BMJ Open, reveals a potential connection between gynecomastia and an increased likelihood of dying before the age of 75. Men with pre-existing risk factors, such as cancer or other diseases, face a particularly elevated risk when diagnosed with gynecomastia.
“Males diagnosed with gynecomastia are at higher risk of death, observed mainly in males with a known pre-existing risk factor of gynecomastia. These findings will hopefully stimulate more awareness among healthcare providers to potentially apply interventions that aid in alleviating underlying risk factors in males with this condition,” the authors wrote in the paper.
The researchers, analyzing data from 23,429 Danish men diagnosed with gynecomastia between 1995 and 2021, categorized them into two groups: those with idiopathic gynecomastia (unknown cause) and those with gynecomastia associated with pre-existing conditions or medication. Compared to randomly selected men without the condition, those with gynecomastia had a 37% higher risk of early death.
“Men as well as women produce sex steroids, i.e. testosterone (T), which is transformed to estradiol (E2). Thus, both sexes have both sex steroids in their circulation. Although men have 10-20 times higher T concentration compared to women, rendering the balance or ratio between T and E2 much higher in men,” Anders Juul, study author and sex hormones expert at Copenhagen University Hospital – Rigshospitalet Juliane Marie Centre, told Newsweek.
“In puberty, both boys and girls start to grow breast tissue as estrogens start to surge around the body.
“This is why all girls develop breasts during puberty and why 50 percent of all adolescent boys develop breasts called ‘physiological gynaecomastia’ or ‘pubertal gynaecomastia.’ In boys, breast tissue regresses after 6-12 months once an equilibrium between estrogen and testosterone has been established in late puberty. If an adult man is exposed (for some reason) to higher E2 levels he may develop breast (gynaecomastia),” Juul said.
Furthermore, men with gynecomastia associated with another condition had a 75% higher risk of premature death, while those with idiopathic gynecomastia faced only a 5% increased risk. Specific pre-existing conditions such as cancer, lung diseases, gut diseases, liver diseases, and disorders of the gallbladder, biliary tract, and pancreas were linked to varying degrees of increased risk.
Anders Juul, a sex hormones expert and study author, explained that while some associations between gynecomastia and increased death risk are understood, more research is needed to unravel these findings. The study did not explore deaths from multiple outcomes or examine exposure to hormone-altering substances and steroids, leaving room for further investigation.
The authors hope their research will raise awareness of the risks faced by men with gynecomastia and encourage additional studies to deepen our understanding of these associations.