Breast cancer in men is rare, but it does happen. After all, men have breast tissue also. The overall ratio of female to male breast cancer in the U.S. is 100 to 1. Although it sounds like a small number, that is still roughly 1,300 men who will be diagnosed, and about 400 who will die of the disease in 2003.
The most common symptoms of male breast cancer include a lump in the breast or a nipple abnormality. Because breast cancer is so much more common in females, many men do not even realize they can develop this disease. Unfortunately, this can delay diagnosis and as a result, some cancers are not found until they have progressed to a later stage. However, when cancer is found at the same stage among men and women, the survival rates are similar. Because the male breast is much smaller than the female breast, it is more likely the disease will spread to the chest wall. For this reason, it is important to find the cancer early in order to successfully treat it.
A Man’s Risk
Several factors may increase a man’s risk of getting breast cancer. Some of these have been strongly linked with breast cancer in men, others have a weaker link to breast cancer, and the specific role of others is still under research.
Known factors that increase your risk of breast cancer include:
- Getting older
- Having family members (male or female) with breast cancers, especially with a BRCA2 mutation
- Having your chest area exposed to radiation treatment
- Taking estrogen for a sex change
- Having higher levels of the female hormone estrogen (common with liver diseases such as cirrhosis)
- Having a genetic condition, such as Klinefelter’s syndrome