Breast Cancer and What Every Male Needs to Know

Breast Cancer and What Every Male Needs to Know


Breast cancer is a disease that is typically related to women. Although it is true that men have a small amount of breast tissue,  it is a possibility that some are affected by this condition. The breast tissue of an adult male can be compared to that of a girl during her puberty stage. This tissue in males is different because it will not grow as the breast tissue grows in a female.  An important consideration about the male anatomy is that high levels of testosterone and low estrogen prohibit the development of breasts during male puberty.

Breast cancer for a male may be similar to that in a woman with the exception that it is rarely detected in the part of the breast that makes or stores milk. It was noted by the Susan G. Komen Organization that approximately one percent of cancers, which is equivalent to 1.3 per 100,000, occur in males. The rate estimated for women is 124 per 100,000. The mortality rate for men is considerably lower, which is .3 per 100,000 if diagnosed in a timely manner in comparison to a rate of 21.5 per 100,000 for women.

Breast cancer is not something that is easy to detect since males have such a small amount of breast tissue and males are less suspicious of any changes in this area of their bodies. The risk of breast cancer in a male rarely occurs under the age of 35, but the risk increases with age.  The median age for the detection of breast cancer in women is 61 and for men, it is 68. However, it occurs most often in males between the ages of 60 and 70.

There are some other risk factors related to breast cancer that males need to take into consideration: consumption of estrogen, frequent chest radiation exposure, breasts that are enlarged from hormone or drug treatments, injury or disease of the testicles, cirrhosis of the liver, and the occurrence of  breast cancer in a close female relative. Males may inherit a gene mutation, also known as BRCA2 BReast CAncer 2, which contributes to 40 percent of the cancers in males but only five to  ten percent in women.

There are signs and symptoms that can alert males to a possible cancerous condition. Those signs include a discharge from the nipple, an itchy rash on the nipple, an inverted nipple or other parts of the breast, a change in the shape or size of the breast, and puckering or redness of the breast. It is possible that these signs could be a benign symptom of a breast condition.

A common condition in the breast for males that is benign is called gynecomastia. This condition is caused from a hormone imbalance, which could be result of hormone use or obesity. If a male is overweight, estrogen levels may increase, which places him at risk of breast cancer. Gynecomastia may lead to breast cancer. The key is early detection. However, when males do not react to a lump in the breast area, the idea that it is breast cancer may be ignored. The results of the rates for survival are noted to be the same for men and women, which was evident for those who were in the same stage when the cancer was diagnosed.

Written by Marie A. Wakefield


Breast Cancer in Men

Susan G. Komen

National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.

Photo by Troy Hicks – Creative Commons License