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2 April 2007
Moobs
by Paul Aitken

When he was about fifteen years old, my older brother grew breasts. Actually, they were little more than breast buds, small, barely discernable protuberances just beneath the nipples. As an immature boy of 14, I found this turn of events to be vastly amusing. In retrospect, I suppose I should have been concerned that the same fate might befall me, but teenagers are not exactly forward thinkers and in my mind my brother's tits existed purely to be poked and poked fun at.

I never did develop breast buds of my own, although I went through a period when the flesh beneath my nipples was tender to pressure - a symptom of early breast development. My brother's didn't last long either - maybe a year. Now nearing fifty (an age where men develop fatty deposits just about everywhere, including breasts) he sports only sturdy pecs where his proto-tits used to be.

It's been estimated that 65 percent of adolescent males develop some degree of breast enlargement. There's even a term for it - gynecomastia, meaning, literally: "woman's breasts." An odd choice given that it's women who normally have breasts. It's like calling an enlarged clitoris a man-dick. A more appropriate term would be andromastia, but who am I to argue. Note that gynecomastia does not refer to rolls of fat that look like boobs. The medical term for this condition is pseudo-gynecomastia, although in common parlance they're called moobs (man boobs).

Moob is an umbrella term for anything on a guy that looks like it could be stuffed into a bra. In America, where sixty percent of men over the age of thirty are overweight, the problem of moobs is so ubiquitous that in an episode of Seinfeld, Kramer and Frank Castanza invent the "manzier", a brassiere for men that they hope will make them rich. Paradoxically though, it is in Britain, where men are comparatively thin, that moobs have become something of a national obsession. In summer, pictures of overweight topless male celebs adorn the tabloids. Last year more than 4,000 British men underwent "breast reduction" (read liposuction) surgery. Moobs have become the male defect de jour.

Gynecomastia, on the other hand refers specifically to the growth of actual breast tissue. This can occur at any age although infancy, puberty and old age are the most common. The majority of cases present themselves during puberty and naturally regressafter a year or two. Only rarely do they present a lasting problem. Sure there can be embarrassment and teasing, especially if you have a younger brother who's a shithead. But let's face it, for many boys, their own tits are the only ones they're likely to see - for a couple of years anyway.

You may wonder how it's possible for guys to grow breasts in the first place. Well, for the most part that's true but as we've seen before, gender isn't simply a matter of which chromosomes you possess. It is determined by a complex sequence of events driven largely by hormones. The hormone responsible for breast growth is estrogen. Give a guy enough estrogen and he'll grow breasts. The size and extent of this growth in men, as in women, depends largely on genetics but there are men out there who, given the right conditions could grow a pair of D-cup stunners that would put Jennifer Connelly to shame.

Now, you're probably thinking that men don't produce estrogen, they produce testosterone instead. But estrogen and testosterone are derived from the same molecule (human growth hormone) and men and women do produce both of these hormones, albeit in vastly different proportions. Counter-intuitively, studies on rats have indicated that estrogen is a key component in male sexual desire.

Breast growth in males occurs when the levels of these two hormones are thrown out of balance with either two much serum estrogen or too little testosterone. In infancy, exposure to the maternal hormones present in breast milk can cause breast growth and even the secretion of milk (known colloquially as witch's milk) from the nipples. In puberty, when the pituitary gland starts pumping out human growth hormone like a Texas gusher, an imbalance can arise from a number of factors both genetic and environmental. In elderly men, breast growth can result from a natural decline in the production of testosterone.

Gynecomastia can arise from a number of different disorders including chronic kidney disease, liver disease and certain adrenal tumors. Basically, any condition that plays havoc with hormone levels has the potential to grow you a pair. This applies to medications as well. Anti-androgens prescribed for the treatment of prostate cancer or prostate enlargement have been found to stimulate breast growth (check out Meatloaf's pair in the movie Fight Club). Ditto for any number of anabolic steroids, including androstenodione, the drug of choice for baseball slugger Mark McGwire. Androstenodione is generally converted into testosterone but depending on the levels of the enzyme aromatase in the body it can also be converted to estrone, a form of estrogen.

Marijuana has also being tabbed as a substance that can stimulate beast growth, though clinical results have been contradictory. I've known a lot of potheads in my time but the only one that sported a pair of hooters was a fetching party-gal named Claire.

Generally speaking, the breast growth that results from temporary hormone imbalances is itself temporary. When deprived of estrogen breast tissue beaks down and is reabsorbed by the body which is why the breasts of women tend to thin out after the onset of menopause. As long as breast growth hasn't been overly extensive, the situation usually remedies itself, as it did for my brother.

In some cases though, where initial breast growth was extensive or where the hormones are still out of balance, some surgery may be required to correct the problem. Techniques vary but in most cases a donut incision is made around the areolae, the excess tissue excised and the surrounding skin is sewn into place. Areolae reduction surgery may also be required depending on how large they've become. These operations cost anywhere from US$2,500 to US$7,000. A small price to pay if you've got a pair of flapjacks hanging from your chest.

While moob reduction surgery has become the latest killer app for cosmetic surgery, it's worth noting that there is a subset of kinky types who actually want to grow their breasts. When breasts grow, nipple stimulation becomes highly erotic. This is why most women love to have their nipples nibbled while most men don't. If you're the type who likes to take a walk on the wild side, Godspeed buddy, but keep your shirt on.

Related articles:
A Penis Doesn't Always Make A Man
Intersex - The Third Gender
Phthalates Expanding Our Waistlines And Shrinking Our Dicks?
Lavender Causes Breast Growth In Boys




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