This is Men's Health Month, and it brings to mind the fact that men can and do develop breast cancer. While it is much less common in men than it is in women, it is important to raise awareness of the possibility and the risk factors.
The lifetime risk for men of developing breast cancer is one in 833; for women, the risk is one in eight. Because so many fewer men develop the disease, we often do not think they can develop it. Unfortunately, they can. Cancer can form anywhere in the body.
In fact, an estimated 2,670 men will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). About 500 men will die from breast cancer, the ACS says.
Men's risk factors for developing breast cancer include:
• Age – Men are more prone to getting the disease as they age. On average, most men are 72 when they are diagnosed;
• A family history of breast cancer – About one in five men with breast cancer also have a male or female relative who has been diagnosed with the disease, according to the ACS;
• Genetics – Mutations of the BRCA1, BRCA2, CHEK2, PTEN and PALB2 genes can put men at a higher risk of breast cancer;
• Obestity – Fat cells convert androgens, which are male hormones, into estrogens, or female hormones. Estrogen can fuel breast cancer;
• Heavy alcohol use;
• Radiation – Previous radiation in the chest area for cancers such as lymphoma increase the risk of breast cancer;
• Liver disease – The liver helps to balance the sex hormones, and in cases where the liver is functioning improperly, it could create higher levels of estrogen; and
• Klinefelter syndrome – This congenital disease means that men have extra estrogen in their bodies due to the fact that they were born with an extra X chromosome. Normally, males are born with an X and a Y chromosome, and females are born with two X chromosomes. A male with Klinefelter syndrome has two X chromosomes and a Y chromosome.
While there is not a regular screening process as men age for breast cancer, as there is with women (mammograms), the best thing to do is to simply know your body and be aware of any changes that could signal breast cancer. That means to be aware of any lumps or swelling in your chest, as well as nipple discharge, skin dimpling or puckering, an inverted nipple, or redness or scaly skin on the nipple or surrounding skin.
If you do notice any of these signs, tell your doctor about them. These symptoms are not always caused by breast cancer, but they do need to be checked out by your healthcare professional as soon as possible.
Source: The American Cancer Society.