Male Breast Cancer

Male breast cancer is not spoke about much but the risk is still there.  An estimated 1970 new cases of breast cancer will occur in 2010 resulting in 390 deaths.  It is rare, in fact less than 1% of men will be diagnosed with breast cancer.  The mean age is 60 – 70 years of age.  Predisposing risk factors appear to include radiation exposure, estrogen administration, and diseases associated with hyperestrogenism, such as cirrhosis or Klinefelter syndrome.  Men whose mothers, sisters or daughters test positive for a cancer-causing gene mutation also have an increased risk of developing the disease but are unaware of that risk. Like their female relatives, fathers, sons or brothers can also harbor a mutation in the BRCA 1 or 2 genes. Male carriers of these mutations, more commonly called the “breast cancer genes,” face a 14 percent lifetime risk of developing prostate cancer as well as a 6 percent lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.  Men with mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes are at greater risk of breast cancer than the general population. Male breast cancer accounts for less than 1 percent of all breast cancers in the U.S., and it is most common in men with a family history of the disease. Previous studies have shown that men who carry mutations in the BRCA2 gene have a greater risk of developing breast cancer than men in the general population. The association between BRCA1 mutations and breast cancer in men was less clear.  The latest study shows that among men treated for breast cancer, African-American men are more likely to die of the disease compared with white men. 
The most common symptoms in males are:  firm non-painful mass close to the nipple, skin changes such as an ulceration of the skin, puckering or dimpling, redness or scaling of the nipple, retraction of the nipple or a discharge from the nipple that is bloody or opaque. 
A commom non-cancerous symptom that often brings a male to their physician, is swelling or abnormal growth of the breast(s) which happens quite rapidly and is relatively common especially in adolescent boys.  It is called Gynecomastia (means abnormally large breasts on men).  Ninety percent of the time these symptoms disappear in a matter of months, or as adolescence fades,  however if it does not fade in time then the only cure for it is surgery.
Men often have a very difficult time talking about their breasts to anyone as many believe breast cancer happens only in women.  Unfortunately this is not true, however, through education and early detection we can transfer the same results that we see today for women surviving breast cancer to their male counterparts. 
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