Breast Cancer in Men: Risk Factors and More

Published: June 13, 2016

By Helen Pass, MD, Director of Breast Surgery and Co-Director, Breast Center

Why is a breast blog highlighting Men’s Health Month? Because men have breast tissue, too! Men and their physicians don't think to do a breast self-check or examination since the lifetime risk of getting breast cancer in a male is about 1 in 1,000 compared to 1 in 8 for women. However, men with a significant family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer should be more vigilant and consider testing for a BRCA gene mutation. This is especially true if:

  • Any of the relatives developed breast cancer before the age of 50
  • Any of the relatives had breast cancer in both breasts
  • Any relative had ovarian cancer
  • More than 3 relatives with breast cancer at any age were on the same side of the family

People of Ashkenazi heritage also have a higher likelihood of having a BRCA mutation when combined with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer. Finally, men who have prostate cancer and a family history of breast cancer should also think about genetic counseling and/or testing. In addition to a significant family history, risk factors for male breast cancer include:

  • Previous radiation to the chest area which had been used to treat another cancer
  • Estrogen treatment
  • To a lesser extent, obesity and heavy alcohol intake

Breast cancer presents similarly in men and women. Men also develop a lump or swelling in their breast, a nipple that turns inward, drainage from the nipple whether it's bloody or not, and redness or scaling of the nipple. It is important that men don’t hesitate to seek medical care since reasons other than cancer can cause these findings.

So this Men’s Health Month, I encourage you to take a few seconds and make certain that you or a loved one does not have any of the findings mentioned above. If you do, please seek care… it may save yours or your loved one’s life. Visit our Breast Center to learn more.

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