Breast cancer

06 October 2011

Breast cancer less deadly for men

New research shows that the few men who develop breast cancer tend to have more advanced cases than women and to be diagnosed at an older age.


New research shows that the few men who develop breast cancer tend to have more advanced cases than women and to be diagnosed at an older age.

But when statistics are adjusted for factors such as age, men with breast cancer are less likely to die from the disease than women are.

The findings shed light on a rare disease in men, one that researchers had earlier assumed was deadlier for males.

Breast lumps in men

"Men can develop it and should be aware that they should seek care if a breast lump develops," said study co-author Dr Mikael Hartman, an assistant professor at National University of Singapore.

About 2,140 men in the United States will develop breast cancer this year, according to an estimate from the American Cancer Society (ACS), and about 450 men will die from it. The ACS estimates that the lifetime risk that a man will develop breast cancer is one in 1,000, although the likelihood skyrockets to 5% to 10% if a man has a mutation in a gene known as BRCA2, noted Dr Mahmoud El-Tamer, an attending surgeon at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre who studies male breast cancer.

The same mutation greatly boosts the risk of breast cancer in women.

Women have more breast tissue

It's not clear why breast cancer is much less common in men. Women, of course, have much more breast tissue. But volume doesn't appear to affect the risk of breast cancer in women, since those with large breasts don't develop the disease more than those with small breasts, El-Tamer said.

Oestrogen could be key, study co-author Hartman said, since it seems to fuel breast cancer and is almost entirely absent in men.

The study

In the new study, which appears online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, researchers analysed statistics on breast cancer in both sexes in Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, Norway, Singapore and Sweden over the past 40 years. The researchers found 459,846 cases of breast cancer in women and 2,665 in men.

Women were diagnosed at age 62 on average and men at age 70. Men with breast cancer were less likely to live for five years than women with the disease were, but the situation reversed when researchers adjusted their statistics so they wouldn't be thrown off by differences between the two groups in terms of age and other factors.

Hartman said it's not clear why men do better, but it may have something to do with how their bodies react to anti-hormone and chemotherapy treatments. (Removal of the breast is another treatment for men with breast cancer.)

Over time, the prospects for women with breast cancer have improved at a greater rate than those for men, he said.

El-Tamer said men should be aware of the possible risk of breast cancer and see a doctor if they notice a lump or changes involving the nipple, such as an ulceration, discharge or changes in the areola. - (HealthDay News, October 2011)

More information

For more about male breast cancer, try the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

(Copyright © 2010 HealthDay. All rights reserved.)


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

Breast cancer expert

Dr Gudgeon qualified in Birmingham, England, in 1968. She has more than 40 years experience in oncology, and in 1994 she founded her practice, Cape Breast Care, where she treats benign and malignant breast cancers. Dr Boeddinghaus obtained her qualification at UCT Medical School in 1994 and her MRCP in London in 1998. She has worked extensively in the field of oncology and has a special interest in the hormonal management of breast cancer. She now works with Dr Gudgeon at Cape Breast Care. Read more.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules