More and more men are having treatment for 'moobs'. Grant Woodward reports
They're the wobbly bits that prompt sniggers and mickey-taking in just about equal measure.
But for many men, 'moobs' are no laughing matter.
Every man has breast tissue, but around one in ten men suffer from
abnormally oversized or swollen breasts, commonly known as 'man-boobs' or 'moobs'.
In many cases they're due to excess fat on the chest that makes it look like they have breasts, a problem that can be helped by losing weight through a combination of healthy eating and regular exercise.
But for others it's not nearly so straightforward.
The medical term for the condition when it's not simply down to being overweight is gynaecomastia.
It's something that is common in teenage boys where firm, tender breast tissue grows under the nipples.
This is usually caused by an imbalance of hormones during puberty and tends to disappear without treatment within a couple of years.
But when it occurs in grown men the issue may be linked to problems with the pituitary gland, the liver or the testicles.
In rare cases, it could be caused by taking anabolic steroids, certain
medicines – prescription or over-the-counter – or using cannabis. Very occasionally gynaecomastia is due to a tumour or disease.
Treatment options include medication to reduce the extra breast tissue or, in some cases, surgery.
But while in severe cases operations may be available on the NHS, it
seems increasing numbers of men are turning to plastic surgeons to get rid of their moobs for good.
Recent figures from the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (Baaps) showed the number of such operations increased by a whopping 28 per cent in 2010.
There were 741 procedures carried out last year, compared to 581 in 2009. In 2005, only 22 were performed.
It means male breast reduction surgery is now second behind nose surgery in the list of most common procedures among males.
The Transform Cosmetic surgery group says it has seen a growing trend in men opting for moob jobs, particularly over the past two years.
Its clinic in Leeds has seen an increase of 42 per cent in male patients overall since July 2010, with 28 per cent of that figure dedicated to breast reduction procedures. They believe this is only set to increase as the procedure becomes more well known and accessible.
"I think a lot of it is to do with the television programmes, things like Embarrassing Bodies," says Dereth Keily, surgical co-ordinator for the clinic on Harrogate Road in Moortown.
"You get guys sitting on the sofa at home thinking they're the only ones with a chest like that and then they see other guys and realise they're not on their own.
"Men are very shy about it but they only have to see a few shows like that and it gives them the confidence to pick the phone up, ring the call centre and then they come and see us.
"Extra fat on the chest can make men feel very self-conscious because a man wants to feel like a man and we all associate fat on the breasts with a woman. I think they feel it's a bit anti-male."
Media scrutiny has also helped to draw more attention to the issue, with famous names such as Simon Cowell and David Cameron having been mocked in the past for unflattering holiday photographs in which they appear to have man breasts.
Racing pundit John McCririck was also mocked for his 'moobs' when he appeared on Celebrity Big Brother and such increased exposure has made many men feel more self-conscious about their chests.
"Some guys can have fat on their chests and it doesn't bother them at all, but for other guys obviously it does," says Ms Keily. "It's very much a personal thing.
"We get a lot of young men who are anything from 19 upwards and they're going away on stag dos or holidays so they want to be round the pool with girls and have tight T-shirts on but they've got these small breasts."
Breast tissue is graded according to size. At the lower end of the scale it can just require liposuction to the area, with higher grades there is a gland behind the nipple which is removed, along with tissue.
Transform typically charges from 2,670 for liposuction and up to 6,000 for more involved surgery, depending on the severity of the condition.
"I think we're going to see a lot more men in cosmetic surgery in general. I've been with Transform for four years and I've certainly seen the rates of gentlemen coming through the door go up.
"They're shy when they come in but it's absolutely normal these days. It's like beauty products, men never used to use moisturiser – they were lucky to have a bottle of Old Spice every Christmas – but now lots of them do.
"But cosmetic surgery is not a need. We can all live with our bodies and faces exactly the way they are, it's not going to kill us. Cosmetic surgery is a want, but for some people it can make a real difference to their lives and confidence levels."