Research into Breast Cancer in Men
The world’s largest study into the genes that cause breast cancer in men shows similarities with female breast cancer, but identifies differences that could potentially lead to treatments specific to males. Results of the study conducted by Breakthrough Breast Cancer and The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) are published in the journal PLoS Genetics.
The research team studied 433 men with breast cancer and found that among the 12 most common genes that contribute to breast cancer in females, five add risk in men, although at a lesser rate.
“It is exciting that this study is already producing results because we know so little about male breast cancer,” said Professor Anthony Swerdlow from the ICR. “We hope that this work will provide us with a much better understanding of the disease and allow us to find ways to prevent it.”
Another study presented at the 2011 Breast Cancer Symposium revealed that, on average, men are older than their female counterparts when diagnosed with breast cancer and frequently have more lymph node involvement. Study authors suggest this may be due to a “lack of awareness” among physicians and patients.
This study included information on 2,475 men and 393,259 women with breast cancer. While the average age for men at diagnosis was 67, it was 61 for the women. Lymph nodes were involved in 32 percent of the men, versus 22 percent of the women. The study did not include information on risk factors like BRCA or family history.
“While the study itself has some limitations, the authors confirm what has been shown historically. Breast cancer in men occurs later in life, is frequently associated with a delay in diagnosis, and is commonly associated with lymph node involvement,” said Gail S. Lebovic, MD, a member of the 2011 Breast Cancer Symposium News Planning Team and past president of the American Society of Breast Disease. “Although breast cancer is rare in men, these findings demonstrate that it is critically important to continue to raise awareness about the occurrence of breast cancer in men.”
This article was prompted by an email I received from someone who was had spent years trying to get more information regarding male breast cancer. That really got to me. Indeed, information specific to male breast cancer is hard to come by. However, there are a few takeaways:
It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so please share information and support wherever you can.
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