Page last updated at 06:40 GMT, Monday, 30 November 2009

Bodybuilders getting chest lumps

By Hywel Griffith
BBC Wales health correspondent

Michael Thomas, 21, developed lumps in his chest after taking a diet supplement to help develop pectoral muscles

Surgeons in Swansea say they have seen a big rise in the number of men with non-cancerous chest lumps caused by taking body building supplements.

The growths, known as gynaecomastia, are not dangerous, but are normally seen in adolescent males or people taking prescribed medication.

In normally healthy adult men the growths can indicate other problems developing, like testicular cancer.

A new procedure is being used at Singleton Hospital to remove the lumps.

Consultant Breast Surgeon Nader Khonji said the number of men presenting with lumps has risen from around one a week to almost one a day.

"There's been a significant growth," said Mr Khonji.

"I would say I see six patients a week overall now with gynaecomastia, which is a definite increase over the last few years.

Michael Thomas
Michael Thomas decided to have the non-cancerous growth removed

"I think a lot of this is to do with the increased awareness of body image amongst men.

"This is leading them to go down the road of weight training and taking supplement and anabolic steroids, which ironically then cause them to develop the breast tissue," he added.

Michael Thomas, 21, from Swansea, is one of the patients to have a lump removed.

He had been taking creatine, a completely legal supplement to help bulk up his muscles.

But he then started to notice something going wrong.

"There was a bit of soreness and I thought it was a bit strange," Mr Thomas said.

"From when I first started training, I had little lumps there, but the lump on the left hand side started to get a bit bigger, so I went to the doctor."

A scan revealed a non-cancerous growth in his chest, which he decided to have removed.

"It's nothing too much to worry about," he said.

Less invasive

"It wasn't too serious, but something needed to be done about it."

While men are able to develop breast cancer, Mr Khonji explained that though the gynaecomastia itself is not dangerous, lumps always need to be checked by doctors.

"In terms of breast tissue - it can be a sign of more harmful underlying conditions like testicular cancer, so it is important that all these patients are assessed," he said.

Removing the lumps in men has been made simpler by using a Mammotome suction device - conventionally used for female breast biopsies.

This is a far less invasive procedure for patients, which can be done in about half an hour - as opposed to open surgery which can mean a full day in hospital.

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