Breast cancer rare in men
PAMELA GLINSKISEBRING - Early diagnoses of breast cancer is important not only for women but for men. Approximately one in every 1,000 men will get breast cancer in their lifetime.
Published: October 6, 2012
Published: October 6, 2012
The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2012 there will be 2,190 new male breast cancer cases diagnosed and 410 men will die from the disease.
While the majority of cases occur in men 60 to 70 years of age, the disease can affect any age group.
Results of a 10-year comparative study of 13,457 men and 1,439,866 women with breast cancer were presented at the American Society of Breast Surgeons annual meeting in Phoenix, Ariz., in May. Lead investigator Jon Greif concluded that the lack of awareness of male breast cancer and its treatment has led to men who get the disease having shorter life spans than women.
In former studies, survival rates for men and women with the same stage of cancer were found to be similar, but men are often diagnosed at a later stage of cancer because they do not report the symptoms or even realize they can get breast cancer.
Symptoms include any change in the breast area or nipple:
Because men usually have less breast tissue then women, some of these signs are easier to detect and should be reported to a doctor right away.
While there is no medical recommendation for monthly self-exams, older males or men with high risk factors might find them helpful for early detection. In fact, Greif advised that high-risk males should have annual clinical examinations and might even consider regular mammograms.
While doctors don't understand exactly what causes male breast cancer, there are several risk factors. Obesity, chronic liver disease, and heavy alcohol use can increase estrogen levels in the body. Estrogen fuels tumor growth.
In an article on SunriseRounds.com, medical oncologist James Salwitz stated that while female breast cancer is estrogen-receptor positive 65 percent of the time, male breast cancer is stimulated by estrogen 90 percent of the time.
A rare condition called Klinefelter's Syndrome, in which high levels of estrogen develop in a man's body, is one of the biggest risk factors for male breast cancer. Gynecomastia (enlargement of the breasts) may occur with Klinefelter's.
Exposure to radiation in large amounts early in life, especially in the chest area, can heighten the risk of getting breast cancer.
Men with an inherited BRCA2 (BReast CAncer) gene mutation from either parent have an increased risk of both breast and prostate cancers.
People with a history of close family members that had breast cancer can have a "full-sequencing" test that examines the DNA of the BRCA genes to determine if any mutations can be identified, but the testing can be expensive; it cost $3,340 through Myriad Genetics Inc.
Insurance covered the cost for Sebring resident Marylou Woodard, who underwent the genetic testing after she was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year. The tests were recommended because her uncle, Robert Wendell, had stage-two breast cancer when he was 60.
Though Wendell's lumpectomy was successful, the cancer later metastasized. "He did live for 30 more years but did have cancer throughout his body at his death," said Woodard.
Other genetic abnormalities like Cowden or Lynch Syndrome are also risk factors.
Regular exercise and a low-fat diet can lower estrogen levels and may help reduce the chances of getting male breast cancer.