While most common in women, breast cancer also affects men. Because men have breast tissue, the cells of the breast can form into a group of cancer cells, or a malignant tumor. Males are less likely to develop breast cancer than females because breast ducts are less developed and they have less of the female hormones that impact breast cell growth. Cancer cells in the breast can spread to the lymph nodes via the lymphatic vessels and become increasingly dangerous. Infiltrating ductal carcinoma is the most common form of breast cancer found in men.
- In 2016 there will be an estimated 2,600 new cases of invasive male breast cancer diagnosed, and an estimated 440 men will die of the disease in the United States.
- In Texas, an estimated 132 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, with an estimated 28 deaths.
- Breast cancer is about 100 times more common in women than in men.
- About one in 1,000 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in his lifetime.
- The outlook for survival from breast cancer in men and woman is about the same. However, male breast cancer is frequently diagnosed at a later stage when it is more difficult to treat.
- Approximately one out of five men diagnosed with breast cancer will have a family member who has breast cancer.
- Men with a mutation of the BRCA-2 gene have a lifetime breast cancer risk of 6 percent. The BRCA-1 gene in men is responsible for a 1 percent lifetime risk of breast cancer.
- Age: As men age, their risk of developing breast cancer increases, with most male breast cancers detected between 60 and 70 years old.
- Radiation: Men who have been treated with radiation around the chest area have an increased risk of breast cancer.
- Family History: Men with close blood relatives who have breast cancer or who have a mutation of the BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 gene face an increased risk. Men with a strong family history of breast cancer should consider genetic testing to determine if they have the gene mutation, which could impact their risk both as a patient and carrier.
- Estrogen: Males with higher levels of estrogen due to diseases, such as the genetic disorder Klinefelter syndrome, have an increased risk. Also, men taking estrogen-related drugs for hormone therapy or sex changes may be at an increased risk.
- Alcohol: Men who are heavy drinkers face an increased risk because alcohol toxicity causes liver diseases, like cirrhosis, which can cause higher estrogen levels.
- Obesity: Just like with women, obesity can contribute to breast cancer in men. Obese men have higher levels of estrogen because fat cells convert male hormones known as androgens to estrogen.
As with women, early detection of breast cancer is crucial to treatment and survival. Men with a family history, such as immediate family members with breast cancer, or a BRCA mutation, should discuss strategies to manage risk with their physician. Signs to look for include:
- Redness or scaliness on the skin and around the nipple
- A nipple that turns inward
- Nipple discharge
- A lump or swelling in the chest area, typically without pain
- Puckering or dimpling skin
Because so few men are diagnosed with breast cancer, it is difficult to study the treatment of breast cancer in men separately from women. Treating breast cancer in men is similar to treating women with the disease. Treatment options can include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, proton therapy, and bone-directed therapy. A combination of treatments may be used to provide the best chance of disease control.