Breast enlargement (gynecomastia) negatively impacts mental and emotional health in adolescent males, say plastic surgeons who - unsurprisingly - suggest cosmetic surgery is the answer. This untapped potential new market is explored in a study published in the latest edition of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
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 around 1-in-12 boys.
Even mild gynecomastia can have adverse psychological effects in boys, according to study author Dr. Brian I. Labow, of Boston Children's Hospital. He says the findings from his study have important implications for early intervention and treatment, including male breast reduction in appropriate cases.
For the study, Labow and his colleagues 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. Labow notes that many of the boys with gynecomastia were overweight or obese: 64 percent, compared to 41 percent of the non-enlarged 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 body mass index," said Labow. "The patients had lower scores for general health, social functioning and mental health."
The enlarged boys also had lower scores for physical health but Labow concedes that this was likely due to the participants being overweight.
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, says Labow.
"As a result, early intervention and treatment for gynecomastia may be necessary to improve the negative physical and emotional symptoms," Labow says. They note that male breast reduction, performed by a qualified plastic surgeon, is typically a simple and safe procedure.
The study notes that adolescent gynecomastia has historically been regarded as a "cosmetic" procedure, not reimbursed by most insurance plans. The researchers say that only 35 percent of adolescent boys undergoing surgery for gynecomastia were covered by insurance, compared to 85 percent of girls undergoing breast reduction.
Labow concludes by calling for further studies to evaluate the effects of male breast reduction, including its impact on physical and psychological symptoms.
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Source: Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery