Pecs or Man Boobs? Does Bodybuilding Get Rid of Gynecomastia?

Plastic surgery and other cosmetic procedures for men are on the rise, id growing acceptance among both older and younger males of medical intervention to address appearance‐related concerns, today’s Informed Patient column reports.

While many men are looking to correct facial features such as sagging chins, wrinkles and droopy eyelids, men are also turning to cosmetic procedures for other parts of the body to achieve a trimmer and more masculine appearance. For example, there was a 6% increase last year in the number of men who had surgery known as gynecomastia, to remove enlarged breast tissue. Phillip Haeck, president of the American Society for Plastic Surgeons and a Seattle plastic surgeon who performs such procedures, tells the Health Blog that the condition is extremely distressing to many males, who may avoid ever being seen with their shirt off.

Such surgery must often be done with a combination of liposuction and surgical removal of breast tissue, with the amount of tissue that must be cut away sometimes as large as a baseball, Haeck says.

Statistics compiled by Haeck’s society show that men are also turning to liposuction in greater numbers. In a 2007 study published in journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, researchers found that men interested in both cosmetic surgery and liposuction reported poorer self‐rated attractiveness and less comfort in a swimsuit than men not interested in the procedures. David Frederick, a co-­‐author of the study, is working with collaborators on the International Body Project, examining cross-­‐cultural preferences for muscularity in men; in almost all cultures, the study has found, above-­‐average muscularity is considered the most attractive by both men and women.

While cosmetic procedures can’t enhance muscularity, they can trim away fat or enhance the jawline, Frederick notes. And the plastic surgery statistics show a small number of men received calf implants, to increase the size and shape of their legs, as well as pectoral and buttock implants.

Pittsburgh plastic surgeon Leo McCafferty says younger male patients tend to be fairly specific about what they want to change, such as a nose that’s too prominent or love handles that won’t go away no matter how much they exercise. But he is also seeing a rise in middle-­‐aged executives “who get a sense when they look in the mirror that they appear older than they feel, or someone has told them they look like they are tired or had a rough night, when neither one is true.”

Some studies, however, have shown than men are more likely to report post‐ operative dissatisfaction than women. Researchers in Australia noted last June in a study published in the Annals of Plastic Surgery that surgeons have traditionally perceived male patients as more psychologically disturbed than females. Though the study didn’t find men to be any more dysfunctional before surgery than their female counterparts, it suggested pre-­‐operative screening “to identify the minority of male patients who will report an unsatisfactory outcome despite a technically good result.”

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