Breast Cancer In Men
Breast cancer in men is a rare condition. Less than one percent of all breast cancer cases occur in men. According to the Centre for Disease Control, 1 in every 100 breast cancer cases in the United States occurs in men.
Early diagnosis can lead to a better outcome for the disease. There is a lack of awareness about breast cancer in men, which leads to late diagnosis. Around 40% of breast cancer cases in men are diagnosed in the third or fourth stage.
Breast cancer affects men and women differently. Men have a lesser and smaller amount of breast tissue compared to women. The cancerous lumps are smaller, but there is a higher chance of cancer spreading to other tissues in the body.
What Are The Symptoms of Breast Cancer In Men?
Common symptoms of breast cancer in men include
- Lump or swelling in the breast
- Redness or scaling of the skin on the breast or nipple
- Nipple retraction, ulceration, or discharge
- Bone pain or swelling in the lymph glands around the underarm area can occur in later stages when cancer spreads
How Does Genetics Influence Breast Cancer Risk In Men?
A family history of breast cancer increases the risk of developing breast cancer in men. About 1 in 5 breast cancer cases in men is hereditary.
The relative risk of breast cancer for a woman who has an affected brother is approximately 30% higher than for a woman with an affected sister.
Abnormal changes or mutations in certain genes result in an increased risk of breast cancer in men. BRCA1, BRCA2, CHEK2, PTEN, and PALB2 are few genes associated with breast cancer risk in men.
“Men with a mutation in the _BRCA2_ gene have a 7 in 100 chance of developing breast cancer.
“Men with a mutation in the _BRCA1_ gene have a 1 in 100 chance of developing breast cancer.
Non-Genetic Factors that Influence Breast Cancer in Men
Other than genetics, factors that influence breast cancer risk in men include:
The risk of breast cancer increases with age. According to the CDC, the average age of men diagnosed with breast cancer is 65 years.
Elevated levels of estrogen, one of the two main female sex hormones, contribute to the development of breast cancer. Certain conditions or treatments can lead to an increase in estrogen levels. These include:
- Men with a rare genetic condition called Klinefelter’s syndrome are born with an extra X chromosome. These men have higher levels of estrogen and lower levels of male hormones, which may increase the risk of breast cancer.
- Liver diseases, such as cirrhosis, can lead to changes in hormone levels.
- Estrogen-related drugs used in the treatment of conditions like prostate cancer can increase the risk of breast cancer.
Being overweight or obese and engaging in low levels of physical activity contribute to the risk of breast cancer. Heavy drinking may also increase breast cancer risk.
Men who have undergone radiation treatment to the chest area may be at higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Injury or swelling in the testicles, an undescended testicle, or surgery can increase the risk of breast cancer.
Recommendations To Lower Breast Cancer Risk In Men
Early detection of breast cancer means early treatment and a better outlook. This helps prevent the spread of breast cancer to other tissues in the body. Males with a family history of breast cancer should undergo regular screening.
Males at high risk of developing breast cancer can opt for genetic testing to see if they carry pathogenic variants. A healthcare provider and a genetic counselor can help you understand risk assessment and the implications of the test. They can tell you about the pros and cons of the test, your testing options, and further interpret the results and their significance.
Controlling Estrogen Levels
There are several health conditions like hypogonadism that can increase estrogen levels. Even certain antibiotics can increase estrogen levels. It is important to consult your doctor for advice regarding lowering your estrogen levels in these cases.
Staying active, eating healthy, quitting smoking, and cutting down on alcohol can help keep your hormones in check and lower the risk of breast cancer.
Treatment options include chemotherapy, radiation, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, and surgery. Based on the diagnosis, the doctor will prescribe the necessary treatment.
- Lesser than 1% of all breast cancer cases are found to occur in men. Due to a lack of awareness, breast cancer in men is usually diagnosed in the later stages.
- Men with a family history of breast cancer are more likely to develop the disease.
- Certain changes or mutations in some genes, including BRCA1, BRCA2, CHEK2, PTEN, and PALB2, contribute to the development of breast cancer in men.
- Old age, elevated estrogen levels, certain lifestyle factors, prior exposure of the chest area to radiation treatment, and testicular conditions are some non-genetic factors that influence the risk of breast cancer in men.
- Early detection can lead to a better outlook and prevent cancer from spreading. Staying active and reducing alcohol consumption are some of the lifestyle changes that can help.
- Genetic testing is a good option for males with a family history of breast cancer. A trained healthcare professional or genetic counselor can outline the steps and help you interpret the results.
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