In this report, the authors evaluate the effectiveness of breast reduction in alleviating the symptoms of macromastia by comparing baseline and postoperative health status using a series of well-validated self-report instruments. The study had a prospective design with a surgical intervention group and two control groups: a hypertrophy control group with bra cup sizes D or larger and a normal control group with bra cup sizes less than D. The effectiveness of nonsurgical interventions in relieving the symptoms of macromastia was also evaluated, both in the operative subjects and in the control groups. Surgical candidates and controls completed a self-administered baseline survey that consisted of the following validated and standardized instruments commonly used to evaluate outcomes: SF-36, EuroQol, Multidimensional Body-Self Relations Questionnaire (MBSRQ), and the McGill Pain Questionnaire (MPQ). A specially designed and validated instrument, the Breast-Related Symptoms (BRS), was also used. There were also questions about prior nonsurgical treatments, comorbid conditions, bra size, and a physical assessment. Additional information obtained on the operative subjects included surgical procedure data, resection weight, and complications. Approximately 6 to 9 months postoperatively, surgical subjects completed the same questionnaire as described above, and a final physical assessment was performed. The cohort included 179 operative subjects with matched preoperative and postoperative data sets, 96 normal controls and 88 hypertrophy controls. The women were predominantly Caucasian, middle-aged, well educated, and employed. Fifty percent of the operative subjects reported breast-related pain all or most of the time in the upper back, shoulders, neck, and lower back preoperatively compared with less than 10 percent postoperatively. Operative subjects and hypertrophy controls tried a number of conservative treatments, including weight loss, but none provided adequate permanent relief. Compared with population norms, the preoperative subjects had significantly lower scores (p < 0.05) in all eight health domains of the SF-36, and in the mental and physical component summary scores. After surgery, the operative subjects had higher means (better health) than national norms in seven of the eight domains and improved significantly from presurgical means in all eight domains (p < 0.05). Before surgery, the operative subjects reported high levels of pain with a Pain Rating Index (PRI) score from the MPQ of 26.6. After surgery, pain was significantly lower with a mean PRI score of 11.7, similar to that of our controls (mean PRI score, 11.2). Regression analysis was used to control for covariate effects on the main study outcomes. Among the operative subjects, benefits from breast reduction were not associated with body weight, bra cup size, or weight of resection, with essentially all patients benefiting from surgery. Breast hypertrophy has a significant impact on women's health status and quality of life as measured by validated and widely used self-report instruments including the SF-36, MPQ and EuroQol. Pain is a significant symptom in this disease, and both pain and overall health status are markedly improved by breast reduction. In this population, conservative measures such as weight loss, physical therapy, special brassieres, and medications did not provide effective permanent relief of symptoms.