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Man with breast cancer

Can men get breast cancer?

It is typically considered a woman’s disease, but can men develop breast cancer, too? Yes, says Barry Roseman, M.D., a breast surgeon and surgical oncologist at Piedmont. However, Dr. Roseman points out that breast cancer in men is very rare. In his 17 years of experience, he has only seen three cases. Statistics show that less than one in every 1,000 men will get breast cancer.

“While the causes of breast cancer in men aren’t completely understood, it is still a reality that men can get this disease,” Dr. Roseman says. “Male breast cancer presents with the same symptoms as in women, and treatment is very similar. Fortunately, the amount of tissue in a man’s breast area is markedly less, so that makes any type of surgery less invasive.”

Risk factors of breast cancer in men

  • The risk of breast cancer increases as men age. The average age of diagnosis is about 68.
  • About 1 out of 5 men with breast cancer has a close male or female relative with the disease.
  • Men with a mutation in the BRCA2 gene have an increased risk of breast cancer, with a lifetime risk of about 6 in 100. BRCA1 mutations can also cause breast cancer in men, but the risk is lower, about 1 in 100.
  • Obesity causes an increase in estrogen levels, and estrogen is a hormone that fuels 80 percent of all breast cancer cases.
  • Heavy drinking of alcoholic beverages may change the levels of hormones the body produces, which may cause more cases of estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer.
  • Liver disease also affects a man’s estrogen levels.

Signs and symptoms of breast cancer in men

  • A lump or swelling, which is usually (but not always) painless
  • Skin dimpling or puckering
  • Nipple retraction (turning inward)
  • Redness or scaling of the nipple or breast skin
  • Discharge from the nipple

“Just like for women, early detection and prompt treatment is the best defense against dying from breast cancer. It is important for men to notice changes in their breast. I encourage men to maintain a healthy weight and restrict alcohol consumption — two things every man can do for a wide variety of health benefits,” Dr. Roseman says.

For more information on men’s health topics, click here.

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