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Do Testosterone Boosters Cause Gynecomastia?

Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: February 17, 2022

Gynecomastia or "man boobs" is a common condition which results in the development of larger breast tissue in men. Several factors can cause it, and there is speculation that using testosterone boosters is one of them.

I spent hundreds of hours researching scientific data on gynecomastia's causes, symptoms, and treatment options to confirm this theory.

Read on to determine if taking a testosterone booster can enlarge male breasts.

Quick Summary

  • Gynecomastia is caused by several factors, such as testosterone replacement therapy, liver disease, obesity, tumors, steroid use, and aging.
  • There is no concrete evidence that testosterone supplements can cause enlarged breasts in men.
  • Symptoms of gynecomastia include breast pain and tenderness, swollen breast tissue, and nipple sensitivity.
  • The treatment route for gynecomastia will depend on what caused it. Your healthcare provider may recommend lifestyle changes, certain medications, and adjustments to TRT.

Do Testosterone Boosters Cause Enlarged Breasts in Men?

There is no solid evidence proving that testosterone boosters cause enlarged breasts in men.

However, gynecomastia is known as a potential side effect of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), although it’s unusual [1].

It is treatable with radiation, surgery, or the discontinuation of testosterone supplementation.

What Is Gynecomastia?

shirtless man seated down

Gynecomastia is a common condition that accounts for over 65% of male breast disorders [2].

It can occur at any age, but it usually manifests during the newborn phase, puberty, and late adulthood.

Gynecomastia may happen during puberty when there's a significant change in the body's hormonal activity, but it should go away on its own with time and without treatment.

It can develop with a drop in testosterone levels in older men, occurring yearly after 30 [3].

There are many causes for enlarged male breasts, but the most common is an imbalance in estrogen and testosterone [4].

The male body produces both hormones, but men usually have lower estrogen levels.

You may develop larger breasts if your testosterone levels are low compared to estrogen or excessive estrogen activity relative to testosterone.

Symptoms of Gynecomastia

If you have gynecomastia, you may experience the following symptoms [5]:

  • Breast pain, particularly in adolescents
  • Breast tenderness
  • Swollen breast tissue
  • Sensitive nipples

You should see a health care provider if you notice any swelling, pain or tenderness, and nipple discharge in one or both breasts.

Your doctor will assess your symptoms, order a physical exam or blood test, and review your medical and family history to diagnose the condition.

Common Causes of Gynecomastia

old man with beard and a syringe

Like the rest of your body, you can accumulate fat in your breasts, which can come and go with fluctuations in weight.

However, many causes of enlarged breasts in men aren't so simple. When you develop glandular tissue in your breasts, not fat tissue, that's when it's considered gynecomastia.

As mentioned earlier, the main culprit behind man boobs primarily involves a hormone imbalance, particularly if you have lower testosterone levels or higher estrogen levels.

However, gynecomastia could be a sign of more severe health issues. Here are the most common reasons men develop enlarged breasts.

1. Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT)

Testosterone treatment can elevate your muscle mass, energy levels, sex life, mood, and more. However, these benefits can come with temporary breast growth.

"So if you start taking testosterone, testosterone levels go up, but in addition, estrogen levels go up because you're converting some testosterone to estrogen. That small increase in estrogen is a big percentage increase, so when you first get started, you can get a little bit of breast tenderness and growth." - Bradley Anawalt, M.D., Endocrinologist

The good news is that this effect isn't usually noticeable. And in most cases, it disappears within a few weeks.

2. Obesity

shirtless man showing his belly fat

Being overweight can cause your estrogen levels to rise, leading to breast tissue growth [6].

Fat tissues produce a hormone called leptin. So when you're obese and your leptin levels are high, it can lead to leptin resistance, which causes your brain to think that it's starving.

This signal ultimately translates to a decrease in luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone, impairing sperm and testosterone production [7].

If you have lower testosterone, you won't benefit from this hormone's "suppression" effect on breast tissue [8].

In this case, estrogen takes over and causes you to develop larger breasts.

3. Steroids

Anabolic steroids are synthetic versions of testosterone.

This illegal substance is used to build muscle mass and enhance performance, but it can also weaken your body's natural ability to produce testosterone, potentially leading to gynecomastia [9].

4. Severe Liver Disease

Any severe illness can lower testosterone production, but liver diseases, in particular, can lead to hormone disruption.

Liver disease impairs its ability to metabolize estrogens, resulting in increased hormone levels circulating in the blood [10].

5. Tumors

Certain tumors, such as pituitary tumors, can impede hormone production, including testosterone and estrogen [11].

If your body isn't making enough testosterone or overproducing estrogen, this imbalance can lead to enlarged breasts.

6. Aging

The likelihood of developing gynecomastia increases as you get older due to hormonal changes [12].

Naturally decreasing testosterone levels may play a role in this, but it can also be a part of normal aging.

How Is Gynecomastia Treated?

feet view of a person using a weighing scale

Gynecomastia is treated by addressing the condition that caused it. So if you're overweight, diet and exercise may be suggested.

If it's due to TRT, your doctor may opt to stop treatment for a month or two to allow your breast tissue size to return to normal.

Another option is using off-label treatments such as tamoxifen and raloxifene, which have exhibited inhibiting effects on estrogen receptors, without side effects [13]. However, it would be best to advise your doctor about these medications before taking them.

Key Takeaway: Does Testosterone Booster Enlarge Male Breast?

There is insufficient scientific data to prove that testosterone boosters can cause male breast tissue growth.

The known causes of enlarged breasts in men are testosterone replacement therapy, obesity, liver disease, steroid use, aging, and tumors.

If you're experiencing symptoms of gynecomastia, it's essential to see a doctor early to determine the underlying causes that need to be treated to solve it.


References:

  1. https://www.nature.com/articles/3901154
  2. https://www.plasticsurgery.org/documents/Health-Policy/Positions/Gynecomastia_ICC.pdf
  3. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15603-low-testosterone-male-hypogonadism
  4. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/16227-enlarged-male-breast-tissue-gynecomastia
  5. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2012/0401/p716.html
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/429508/
  7. https://www.hormone.org/diseases-and-conditions/infertility-male
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2931104/
  9. https://www.addictioncenter.com/stimulants/steroids/symptoms-signs/
  10. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/estrogen-metabolism
  11. https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/low-testosterone
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279105/
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15238910/

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