Male Breast Cancer
All people, whether male or female, are born with some breast cells and tissue. Even though males do not develop milk-producing breasts, a man’s breast cells and tissue can still develop cancer. Even so, male breast cancer is very rare. Less than one percent of all breast cancer cases develop in men, and only one in a thousand men will ever be diagnosed with breast cancer.
Breast cancer in men is usually detected as a hard lump underneath the nipple and areola. Men carry a higher mortality than women do, primarily because awareness among men is less and they are less likely to assume a lump is breast cancer, which can cause a delay in seeking treatment. The majority of men diagnosed are over the age of 50.
Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma
Of the men who develop breast cancer, the vast majority of those cases are Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma (IDC), which means cells in or around the ducts begin to invade surrounding tissue. Very rarely, a man might be diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer or Paget disease of the nipple, which is Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) contained within the nipple and usually areola.
- Radiation exposure
- High levels of the hormone estrogen
- Family history of breast cancer, especially breast cancer that is related to the BRCA2 gene.
Signs & Symptoms
Male breast cancer can exhibit the same symptoms as breast cancer in women, including a lump. Anyone who notices anything unusual about their breasts, whether male or female, should contact their physician immediately.
Most men find their own lump while in the shower and it is usually located underneath the nipple and areola. It is common for men to delay reporting the lump to a physician which can result in the patient requiring more treatment.
Nearly all breast cancer in men is estrogen receptor positive with treatment including hormonal therapy, just as it does for 70% of women. Survival rates and treatment for men with breast cancer are very similar to those for women. Early detection of breast cancer increases treatment options and often reduces the risk of dying from breast cancer.
Although treatment outcomes are very similar to women at the same stage of detection, a man diagnosed with breast cancer should also consider seeing a genetics counselor for a consultation. If a man tests positive for a defective gene (most commonly either BRCA1 or BRCA2) that can lead to a future diagnosis of breast cancer and his children have a 50% chance of carrying the gene. In addition:
- A male child of a man with breast cancer who inherits the defective BRCA2 gene has only approximately 6% chance of eventually developing breast cancer and just over 1% with BRCA1.
- A female child of a man with breast cancer who inherits the defective gene has a risk between 40% and 80% of eventually developing breast cancer.
- Men with a genetic predisposition to breast cancer (carrying BRCA2 gene mutation) are also at higher risk of getting prostate cancer at a younger age than usually diagnosed, as well as being at higher risk for melanoma and pancreatic cancer.
Material on this page is courtesy of:
- American Cancer Society
- American Society of Clinical Oncology
- Journal Of The National Cancer Institute
- Journal Of Clinical Oncology
Medically Reviewed on April 15, 2020