The incidence of young men seeking breast reductions surged 14 percent last year, more than any other form of cosmetic surgery sought by teens, according to data released by the American Society of Plastic Surgery.
The procedure treats what is formally known as gynecomastia ("incidence of female breasts"), which is caused by an imbalance of estrogen and testosterone hormones in men that leads to larger breasts. Here's a chart ranking year-over-year plastic surgery growth, along with total treatments for each. Male breast reduction is now the third-most-popular type of cosmetic surgery among teens:
The condition has two peak periods, according to Dr. Ronald Tamler, an endocrinologist and medical director at the Mount Sinai Clinical Diabetes Institute in New York: during teen years, and in late old age.
While you might think this trend is correlated to rising youth obesity rates, Dr. Scot Glasberg, a New York City plastic surgeon who treats the condition in teens, says weight is just one of many elements that can trigger the condition—genetics, environmental factors, and even marijuana use can all contribute.
"These are people with relatively normal body weights who happen to have larger breasts," he said.
Male breast reductions can cost anywhere from $5,000 and $15,000, mostly depending on what part of the country it's being carried out, he said.
Doctors usually take one of two approaches in performing a reduction. If the enlarged breasts are primarily caused by excessive fatty tissue, liposuction is used. But in those cases, Glasberg said, he will often simply recommend diet and exercise.
If, instead, excess glandular tissue is the primary cause of the enlarged breast, the tissue will be excised, in addition to liposuction.
Glasberg said he won't recommend surgery until it is clear the patient has mostly completed puberty, as the condition can sometimes go away on its own. Even if it lingers, he said, many young adults in prior years would have simply lived with it.
But these days, what Glasberg referred to as "the selfie concept" among America's youth has caused young people to become more sensitive to body issues. Overall, plastic surgeries among teens increased 2 percent in 2014.
"You go to school, you're in the gym, and have to change in front of others, and there is now a psycho-social element to it if you have larger breasts," he said. "We've been doing it for many many years, but the numbers have grown because the word has gotten out."
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.