Donít let all those pink ribbons fool you. Men get breast cancer, too.
Almost 80 percent of men who are at higher risk for breast cancer donít even know that men can get breast cancer.
A study published in the American Journal of Nursing polled men who were at higher risk for male breast cancer because they had a blood relative with the disease on their motherís side. Seventy-nine percent didnít know that men could develop breast cancer and 43 percent admitted that the diagnosis would cause them to question their masculinity. None of the men surveyed said their doctors had discussed it with them.
This October marks the 25th anniversary Breast Cancer Awareness Month in order to promote awareness of this devastating disease.
The numbers are relatively low, but the American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that this year in the United States, 1,970 new cases of invasive male breast cancer will be diagnosed and about 390 men will die.
Breast cancer is about 100 times less common among men than among women because their breast duct cells are less developed and are not constantly exposed to female hormones.
Men can also have benign breast disorders that do not spread or threaten life. These are also more common to women than men.
Risk Factors for Male Breast Cancer
- Aging: The risk of breast cancer rises as a man ages. Average age of diagnosis in men is 68 years old.
- Family History: Risk is increased if other blood relatives have had breast cancer. Approximately one in five men with breast cancer have a close relative with the disease.
- Inherited Gene Mutations: A gene mutation accounts for about one in ten breast cancers in men. People with these mutations typically have a strong family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer. Cancers in these families often occur in people younger than the usual age of 60.
- Radiation Exposure: A man whose chest area has been treated with radiation has an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
- Alcohol: Heavy drinking of alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer in men.
- Liver Disease: Men with severe liver disease such as cirrhosis have relatively low levels of androgens and higher estrogen levels, and may have an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
- Estrogen Treatment: Estrogen-related drugs are sometimes used in hormonal therapy for men with prostate cancer and may slightly increase their breast cancer risk. Men taking high doses of estrogens as part of a sex change procedure may also have a higher breast cancer risk.
- Obesity: Recent studies have shown that women’s breast cancer risk is increased by obesity and is probably a risk factor for male breast cancer as well.
- Testicular Conditions: Some studies suggest that certain conditions that affect the testicles, such as having an undescended testicle, having mumps as an adult, or having one or both testicles surgically removed may increase breast cancer risk. More research is needed in this area.
- Occupations: Some reports suggest an increased risk in men who work in hot environments such as steel mills. This could be because long-term exposure to higher temperature can affect the testicles, which in turn would affect hormone levels. Men heavily exposed to gasoline fumes may also have a higher risk. Further research is needed to confirm these findings.