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Breast Cancer in Men

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Even though men don't have breasts like women, they do have a small amount of breast tissue. The "breasts" of an adult man are similar to the breasts of a girl before puberty. In girls, this tissue grows and develops, but in men, it doesn't.

But because it is still breast tissue, men can get breast cancer. Men get the same types of breast cancers that women do, but cancers involving the parts that make and store milk are rare.

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General Information About Male Breast Cancer

Incidence and Mortality Estimated new cases and deaths from breast cancer (men only) in the United States in 2013:[1] New cases: 2,240. Deaths: 410. Male breast cancer is rare.[2] Less than 1% of all breast carcinomas occur in men.[3,4] The mean age at diagnosis is between 60 and 70 years, though men of all ages can be affected with the disease. Predisposing risk factors [5] appear to include radiation exposure, estrogen administration, and diseases associated with hyperestrogenism,...

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Why Don't I Hear About Breast Cancer in Men as Much as I Hear About Breast Cancer in Women?

Even though men don't have breasts like women, they do have a small amount of breast tissue. The "breasts" of an adult man are similar to the breasts of a girl before puberty. In girls, this tissue grows and develops, but in men, it doesn't.

But because it is still breast tissue, men can get breast cancer. Men get the same types of breast cancers that women do, but cancers involving the parts that make and store milk are rare.

Which Men Are More Likely to Get Breast Cancer?

It is rare for a man under age 35 to get breast cancer. The chance of a man getting breast cancer goes up with age. Most breast cancers happen to men between the ages of 60 and 70. Other risk factors of male breast cancer include:

  • Breast cancer in a close female relative
  • History of radiation exposure of the chest
  • Enlargement of breasts (called gynecomastia) from drug or hormone treatments, or even some infections and poisons
  • Taking estrogen
  • A rare genetic condition called Klinefelter's syndrome
  • Severe liver disease (called cirrhosis)
  • Diseases of the testicles such as mumps orchitis, a testicular injury, or an undescended testicle

How Serious Is Breast Cancer in Men?

Doctors used to think that breast cancer in men was more severe than it was in women, but it now seems that it's about the same.

The major problem is that breast cancer in men is often diagnosed later than breast cancer in women. This may be because men are less likely to be suspicious of something strange in that area. Also, their small amount of breast tissue is harder to feel, making it harder to catch these cancers early. It also means tumors can spread more quickly to surrounding tissues.

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