Breast Cancer Awareness - It's Not Just for Women!

October is breast cancer awareness month. A lot of the awareness articles and advertising is aimed at women and rightly so but did you know that men can also develop breast cancer? Though breast cancer is most often thought of as a woman’s disease, male breast cancer can and does occur.

Male breast cancer is a rare cancer that forms in the breast tissue of men. This type of cancer is most common in older men, but it can occur at any age.

  • Some signs and symptoms of male breast cancer may include:
  • A painless lump or thickening in your breast tissue
  • Changes to the skin covering your breast, such as dimpling, puckering, redness or scaling
  • Changes to your nipple, such as redness or scaling, or a nipple that begins to turn inward
  • Discharge from your nipple

It is not clear what causes male breast cancer. Doctors know that male breast cancer occurs when some breast cells divide more rapidly than healthy cells do. These cells form a tumor that may spread (metastasize) to nearby tissue, to the lymph nodes or to other parts of the body.

Both men and women are born with a small amount of breast tissue. Breast tissue consists of milk-producing glands (lobules), ducts that carry milk to the nipples, and fat. Women begin developing more breast tissue during puberty, and men do not. But because men are born with a small amount of breast tissue, they can develop breast cancer.

Some men inherit abnormal (mutated) genes from their parents that increase the risk of breast cancer. If you have a gene called BRCA2, it can put you at greater risk of developing breast and prostate cancers.

Some risk factors that increase the chances of a man developing breast cancer include:

  • Older age. The risk of breast cancer increases as you age. Male breast cancer is most often diagnosed in men in their 60s.
  • Exposure to estrogen. If you take estrogen-related drugs, such as those used for hormone therapy for prostate cancer, your risk of breast cancer is increased.
  • Family history of breast cancer. If you have a close family member with breast cancer, you have a greater chance of developing the disease.
  • Klinefelter's syndrome. This genetic syndrome occurs when boys are born with more than one copy of the X chromosome. Klinefelter's syndrome causes abnormal development of the testicles. As a result, men with this syndrome produce lower levels of certain male hormones (androgens) and more female hormones (estrogens).
  • Liver disease. Certain conditions, such as cirrhosis of the liver, can reduce male hormones and increase female hormones, increasing your risk of breast cancer.
  • Obesity. Obesity is associated with higher levels of estrogen in the body, which increases the risk of male breast cancer.
  • Testicle disease or surgery. Having inflamed testicles or surgery to remove a testicle can increase your risk of male breast cancer.

If you have any of these risk factors or have noticed any of the related symptoms you should make an appointment with your doctor for further evaluation. For more information related to this or other health topics please contact Four Corners Health Department at: info@fourcorners.ne.gov; or 877-337-3573.