Male breast cancer

Breast cancer is overwhelmingly a woman’s disease but men can and do develop breast cancer. While 47,693 cases of breast cancer were diagnosed in the UK in 2008 in women, male breast cancer cases in that year totalled only 341, which is about 0.5%.

Because male breast cancer is rare, however, men who develop the disease rarely bring their concerns to the attention of their doctor. Breast cancer in men can therefore be diagnosed relatively late, when treatment options are more limited.

Most men develop breast cancer in their 60s or 70s and, like female breast cancer, it can be hereditary. If a man has a mother, aunt or sister who develops breast cancer at a relatively young age, he may be one of the few men who develops a breast tumour.

Around one in 10 men with breast cancer are found to have a mutation in the BRCA2 breast cancer gene. Men who have gynaecomastia commonly known as ‘man boobs’, or ‘moobs’ develop excess glandular tissue in their breast area and are more likely to develop breast cancer. What are the signs of male breast cancer?

Men are far less likely to examine their own chest and are not able to have mammograms or breast screening, so breast tumours are usually diagnosed after a man notices changes to his nipples or chest. The usual signs include a lump or thickening in this tissue, an unusual discharge of fluid from the nipple, or orange-peel or puckered skin.


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