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Marijuana and Gynecomastia: Is There a Link?

half part body of a man while covering his breast

Gynecomastia is an overdevelopment of breast gland tissue in men or boys resulting from imbalanced hormone levels. Certain illnesses, medications, herbal supplements, and substances like anabolic steroids, alcohol, and cannabis have been associated with the condition.

Over the years, scientific research has produced conflicting results linking marijuana and gynecomastia, but while there’s no solid connection between the two, there could be some correlation.

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What Is Gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia, the development of excessive breast tissue, can occur at any point during the lifespan. It may affect both breasts or have a disproportionate effect and cause an uneven appearance.

While gynecomastia is typically linked to hormonal imbalances, there are some instances where the cause is unknown.

Often considered a benign condition, many cases of gynecomastia subside naturally without medical treatment.

It’s most common during infancy, occurring at a rate of 60% to 90%. The prevalence of gynecomastia is 50% to 60% in adolescents and around 70% in men 50 to 69 years of age.

Severe cases of gynecomastia may be the result of an underlying illness or side effects of certain medicines, supplements, or other substances, such as alcohol, heroin, and cannabis.

Medications that may cause gynecomastia include:

  • Anti-androgens (prostate cancer drugs)
  • Anabolic steroids
  • AIDS/HIV medications
  • ADHD medications that contain amphetamines
  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Chemotherapy
  • Tricyclic antidepressants

When determining the cause of excessive male breast tissue growth, doctors may attempt to rule out underlying diseases associated with gynecomastia, such as:

  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hypogonadism
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver diseases
  • Lung cancer
  • Testicular cancer
  • Tumors of the adrenal or pituitary glands

Although gynecomastia isn’t life-threatening, it can have a serious impact on mental health.

Past research on gynecomastia in adolescents showed that patients reported elevated levels of depression, anxiety, social phobia, and emotional distress as a result of their condition.

Additional findings revealed that surgical treatment of gynecomastia increased feelings of satisfaction and heightened self-confidence.

Can Marijuana Use Cause Gynecomastia?

The link between gynecomastia and cannabis use is not conclusive.

While there is evidence that cannabis causes gynecomastia in rats, there’s no definitive link between marijuana use to gynecomastia in humans.

That said, there is some research that attempts to connect cannabis use with low testosterone levels, which could trigger excessive growth of male breasts.

One study on male infertility found that cannabis’s effect on estradiol is linked to hormonal imbalances in infertile men.

As the predominant form of estrogen, estradiol in men helps to moderate libido, erectile function, and sperm production. Findings suggest that marijuana lowered estradiol and testosterone levels in males.

Conversely, results from a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) was associated with the opposite effect: a small increase of testosterone in regular marijuana consumers, as opposed to non-users.

How Is Gynecomastia Treated?

Just as there are numerous factors that may cause gynecomastia, there are multiple ways to treat it.

If you suspect you may have gynecomastia, your doctor may review your complete medical history and run a full workup, including blood and urine tests, a mammogram, and other scans to rule out any underlying diseases.

Once a diagnosis is confirmed, your doctor can help determine the best course of action. In some cases, gynecomastia may clear up on its own, but if it’s a side effect of a major illness, your doctor will likely recommend immediate medical intervention.

If your physician suspects your condition is related to medication, recreational drugs, or health supplements, they may ask you to temporarily suspend them and take a trial-and-error approach.

Some doctors prescribe medication to treat gynecomastia. Certain breast cancer drugs, dopamine blockers, and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) have been used to successfully treat gynecomastia.

Surgery is another viable option. Gynecomastia procedures offer a more direct and permanent method of treating gynecomastia. The two main methods are liposuction, which removes breast fat, and mastectomy, which is the removal of breast gland tissue.

Less severe cases may be managed by diet and exercise and could mitigate some of the negative side effects of other treatments, including anxiety and depression.

Ultimately, the best approach to treating gynecomastia depends on your doctor’s recommendation and your personal preference. Remember to share details of your cannabis use with your healthcare team when discussing your options.

What to Do If You Have Gynecomastia and Use Marijuana

According to a recent study, a growing number of Americans have come to rely on marijuana’s medicinal and therapeutic benefits — so what does that mean for cannabis users with gynecomastia?

If you find yourself in this situation, your doctor may recommend abstaining from cannabis altogether or suggest a t-break to rule out marijuana as the cause of your gynecomastia.

And since hemp-derived CBD contains no more than 0.3% THC (the active agent thought to affect hormones), you may want to discuss a cannabis regimen that includes pure CBD or CBD isolate.

Remember, when it comes to matters of health, it’s best to speak honestly. Open communication with your doctor is essential to making informed decisions and ensuring optimal well-being.

The Bottom Line

Gynecomastia is a common condition defined as the growth of excess breast gland tissue in males.

It’s caused by an imbalance of estrogen and testosterone that can occur as a result of natural causes (such as puberty), certain medications, or diseases. While animal studies suggest a link between marijuana and gynecomastia, there’s no clear evidence that the same is true for humans.

If you’re a cannabis consumer and suspect you may have gynecomastia, talk with your doctor to develop a medical treatment plan that works best for you.

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