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Medical Conditions A - Z

Male Breast Cancer

PensiveQn: Can men get breast cancer?  If yes, are the causes different from women? How do a man check whether he is at risk of breast cancer?

Ans: Yes, men can get breast cancer too. However the incidence of male breast cancer is very much lower. Less than one per cent of the total breast cancer cases are male. The prognosis in males with breast cancer is generally worse than in females. This is because of the small size of the male breast and the tendency of the cancer to spread beyond the breast more easily.

If a man discovers a lump in the breast, he should immediately see a surgical oncologist to exclude breast cancer.

The causes are essentially the same, and they are:

  • Genetic causes (men can also carry the BRACA 1 or BRACA 2 gene defects that are associated with breast cancer), or
  • Environmental causes eg obesity, hormonal imbalances etc. However the reason why the incidence is much lower in males is because in the male, the level of the female hormone, oestrogen is much lower. This is the hormone that can stimulate growth of breast cells, and can trigger formation of breast cancer.

If a man comes from a family where there are several members with breast cancer, or where one member has tested for the breast cancer gene, he can go for genetic testing for the breast cancer gene to see if he is also a carrier of the gene. Such carriers (both male and female) have a very significant risk (about 50 to 80 per cent) of getting breast cancer in their lifetimes.