The legalization of marijuana in Colorado has proven to be a very hot topic nationwide. As individual states begin to pass laws to legalize its use, the question of health risks related to marijuana come into question. As a Plastic Surgeon, I work with a number of male patients who are mainly pursuing body contouring procedures. Many of them come to me with long-standing gynecomastia (man boobs) or “moobs” as this condition has often been referred to.
While animal studies have demonstrated that THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) can lower testosterone, reduce testicular size, and cause abnormalities in the form and function of sperm, there is conflicting evidence in human studies to document a true association. The medical profession strongly suspects a link between pot smoking and gynecomastia. In truth, this hasn’t been studied in a rigorous enough way to yield concrete evidence to support the assumption.
Gynecomastia develops when there is an imbalance between testosterone and estrogen levels.
In a male, when testosterone falls and estrogen dominates, breast tissue is stimulated to grow. The end result…man boobs! According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, in 2012 nearly 23,000 men underwent surgery to correct this condition. In reality, this number most likely under-represents the actual number of men affected.
Many men either have gynecomastia and do not recognize it or have such a small degree of it that it doesn’t bother them. But for the men that we see in our offices, gynecomastia can make the simple act of removing your shirt at the gym or the beach a very painful and embarrassing experience. I have operated on men who literally cried once they saw the results of surgery because they never thought that they would look normal again.
The most challenging aspect of gynecomastia is the process of education.
Many men simply don’t realize that there is a safe and effective treatment they can undergo that can help them. This condition is often seen during puberty where it affects approximately 60% of teenage boys and it can continue to affect men well into adulthood. Roughly 30-45% of men between the ages of 25-45 suffer from gynecomastia, and an alarming 55-60% of men aged 50 and older.
Low testosterone can lead to other bad health outcomes.
To what extent pot smoking actually causes gynecomastia, at this point we really don’t know. If usage increases with legalization then we may be seeing more patients presenting over the coming years for treatment of gynecomastia. But for now, that is more a prediction than a hard truth. My concern is that if marijuana really does decrease testosterone levels, there may be far more negative effects than simply man boobs that we will be wrestling with. Estrogen dominance in a male has been clearly shown to increase the risk for cardiac events, stroke, and early death. In my mind, these risks far outweigh the concern I have for man boobs. My hope is that the medical profession will begin studying the potential link between frequent marijuana use and testosterone/estrogen levels and determine just how concerned we really should be. Until then, if you’re a man and you’re worried about moobs, I’d suggest laying off the weed for now…or at least until we know more.
We’d love to hear your questions. To contact us, please call us at 303.747.6719 or contact me directly at [email protected]
For more information on this topic read the full article here: Mile-High Men May Develop Man-Boobs.