Women have no monopoly on breast cancer

Men get breast cancer, too, but it’s a rare disease with a lifetime risk of about 1-in-1,000. In 2017, about 2,470 men are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer, and about 460 men will die from breast cancer.

Most breast cancers in men are invasive ductal carcinomas (IDC), cancer that begins in the milk ducts which move milk from the lobes to the nipple.

The risk of breast cancer increases with age for men, as it does with women. The average age of men diagnosed with breast cancer is about 68.

Another risk factor is elevated levels of estrogen because most male breast cancers are estrogen receptor positive, as are women’s.

However, male breast cancer differs from women’s, per this review of 1,473 cases in nine countries:

  • 92% of male breast cancers were estrogen receptor positive, compared with about 70% of female breast cancers.
  • 5% of the male breast cancers were HER2-positive, compared with about 20% of female breast cancers
  • 1% of the male breast cancers were triple-negative (estrogen receptor negative, progesterone receptor negative, and HER2-negative), compared with about 10%-15% of female breast cancers

Yes, men’s bodies make estrogen, like women’s make testosterone. These factors can  elevate estrogen levels:

  • being overweight, because fat cells (adipose tissue) increase the production of estrogen
  • being heavy consumers of alcohol, which can limit the liver’s ability to regulate blood estrogen levels
  • having liver disease
  • having been exposed to estrogens in the environment or taking hormonal medicines, such as those associated with a sex change procedure
  • having inflamed testicles (orchitis) or surgery to remove a testicle (orchiectomy)

Men with Klinefelter syndrome have a higher risk of breast cancer.  This genetic disease affects about 1-in-1,000 men.

As with women, having an abnormal BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene increases the risk of male breast cancer. The lifetime risk of developing male breast cancer is approximately 1% with the BRCA1 gene mutation and 6% with the BRCA2 gene mutation.

Because it is such a rare disease, researchers “know very little about its biology and how best to treat patients.”

Breast cancer in men is usually detected as a hard lump underneath the nipple and areola.

Learn more at the Male Breast Cancer Coalition.


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2 Replies to “Women have no monopoly on breast cancer”

  1. Yes. Have read about male breast cancer in the past. Genetics are always in play. Fortunately it is rare relative to other cancers males contract.

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