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Friday, December 6, 2013

Sorry, CNN, Marijuana Does Not Cause Man Boobs

Posted By on Fri, Dec 6, 2013 at 1:33 PM

A typical stoner?
  • A typical stoner?

One of the biggest steps forward on drug reform this year was taken by CNN, when the network's main man on medicine Sanjay Gupta came clean on cannabis.

In 2009, when Gupta was possibly in the running to be Barack Obama's surgeon general, medical marijuana was a sham, not supported by science. Somehow, that same science changed four years later. In August, CNN devoted an hourlong special to Gupta's total flip-flop. He was wrong; marijuana is medicine after all.

It appears CNN's embrace of truth was too good to last. This week, one of the network's clinical contributors caused a splash with the claim that marijuana is "probably" a chief cause of gynecomastia, or man boobs.

We don't even have to wait four years on this one. This is a myth already well-exploded -- barely supported as a theory by the studies CNN cited.

In his piece for, Detroit-area plastic surgeon Dr. Anthony Youn recounts the tale of a healthy young man coming in to see him about his man boobs. Youn sniffs out the culprit -- the young patient smells like a "rock concert" -- and admonishes him to stop smoking weed immediately.

"So can smoking pot really give you man boobs? Probably." Youn declares, calling the link "very plausible."

The problem is that there is scant science to back up Youn's claim. And he admits as much.

The simplest cause of man boobs is an excess of estrogen, the "ladylike" hormone (compared to the grunting, farting, hairy male hormone testosterone).

There is a study that suggests compounds in marijuana causes hormonal imbalances, but the very study Youn cites is a 2002 review of animal, not human studies.

And that study says, buried no deeper than the executive summary, "effects in humans have been inconsistent," and "the long-term consequences of marijuana use in humans on endocrine systems remains unclear."

That's the best Youn has. And there's much more to refute his side: a 1983 study found no link, as did a 1977 study.

There's also an entire page of "Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts," the 1997 review of studies on the drug by a Ph.D. and an MD. The review of the evidence then shows "no scientific evidence" to support theories that marijuana use causes man boobs in men, or masculine qualities in women.

In other words, good old reefer madness, mixed with a dose of Internet-era clickbait. It's no secret why CNN published Youn's dubious claim; why he chose to go public with this particularly weak tea is another question.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.

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