­5 Facts About Male Breast Cancer You Need To Know

Angelina Jolie put an uber-talented, gorgeous and accomplished face on breast cancer. But if you think only women get breast cancer, think again. Remember Peter Criss of the heavy metal band KISS? He was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. Remember Richard Roundtree, the actor who played the iconic bad-ass, womanizing criminal detective, “John Shaft” – the “cat that won’t cop out when there’s danger all about” – in the 1970’s “Shaft” films? He was diagnosed in 1993.

Although breast cancer is 100 times more common, in women than in men, (one in 1,000 men versus 120 in 1,000 women ), anyone who has breasts is at risk for breast cancer. If you’re a guy, or if you know one, these are the facts about male breast cancer that you should know.

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1. Inheritability

As in women, breast cancer in men can be inherited. Indeed, male breast cancer can be traced to heredity in 20 percent of all cases , as compared with five to 10 percent for women. However, the elevated lifetime risk is estimated at around six percent, as compared with that of women, which can be far higher).

2. Other Risk Factors

Male breast cancer is often hormonally driven, such that anything that has a tendency to raise a man’s estrogen level will increase his risk of breast cancer. The following can raise a man’s estrogen level:, certain medications, being overweight, heavy drinking of alcohol, having liver disease, and environmental estrogens (for example, radiation therapy or an excess of estrogen-containing foods). As with female breast cancer, risk increases with age (the average age of male breast cancer onset is 67).


3. Symptoms

The symptoms of male breast cancer include the same symptoms as those in women: - a lump or thickening - skin changes, such as dimpling, redness, puckering or scaling - nipple changes, such as scaling, change in color , inversion or discharge - pain

4. Prognosis

The prognosis for male breast cancer was once thought to be worse than for female breast cancer; however, the difference in prognosis has been found to be the result of later detection in men. Early detection can be problematic for men – although it can be easier to feel small masses in male breast tissue, men tend to ignore cancers until they have grown large. And male breast cancer need not grow very far to invade the lymph nodes, skin or the muscles underneath the breast.

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5. Gender Discrimination

Breast cancer
may not discriminate based on gender, but apparently Medicaid does, by not providing treatment for men diagnosed with the disease. And not all private insurance companies cover annual screenings for men, even those at increased risk.

Men with breast cancer suffer indignities unique to their gender. One example is the lack of options for feeling “whole” after a mastectomy (most men would not consider wearing a bra with a prosthesis; and what happens when it comes to wearing a bathing suit?). Another is a sense of emasculation that comes from having been saddled with a “female” illness (pink ribbons and pink baseball caps don’t exacty help the matter).

Finally, since breast cancer research is almost entirely focused on women, the question arises as to whether the research applies to men equally.


Photo Credit: Alejandro Jaramillo

By Lauren Cahn| April 30, 2014
Categories:  Care
Keywords:  CareMen's Health

About the Author

Lauren Cahn

Lauren Cahn

Lauren Cahn has written extensively about yoga, health and wellness since 2004, when she earned her first yoga teaching certification from Cyndi Lee’s Om Yoga Center (NYC).

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