Men With Gynecomastia May Be at Increased Risk of Early Death

Gynecomastia — enlarged breast tissue in men that’s not caused by excess weight — was associated with a 37 percent higher risk of death before the age of 75, according to a first-of-its-kind study, published on January 16 in BMJ Open. Having a preexisting risk factor, such as cancer or circulatory, lung, and gut diseases before diagnosis were associated with the highest risk.

The markedly increased risk of premature death found here should warrant medical attention, says study coauthor Anders Juul, MD, PhD, a professor of growth and reproduction and an endocrinologist at Rigshospitalet in Denmark.

“Clearly, newly developed gynecomastia should be considered by the evaluating doctor as the ‘canary in the coal mine,’” says Dr. Juul. Physicians should look for the underlying cause, follow these patients more closely, or both, he adds.

Because gynecomastia is so common in older men, doctors often assume it’s obesity driven and may not always investigate the cause, says Joseph Aloi, MD, a professor of endocrinology and metabolism at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and an endocrinologist at Atrium Health–Wake Forest Baptist in Winston Salem, North Carolina.

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