13 July 2018

Magician with breast cancer: 'I had no clue men could get it'

Many people are unaware that males can also get breast cancer. Breast cancer survivor Khevin Barnes was one of them.

One in 1 000 men is diagnosed with breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society, and in the USA the projected number of cases for 2017 was 2 470. 

Rare diagnosis 

In an interview with the Daily Mail Online, American magician Khevin Barnes revealed, “I was one of those guys who had no clue that men could even get breast cancer.”

Male breast cancer can be described as an orphan disease as it occurs in fewer than 200 000 people worldwide every year.

Barnes was a successful environmentalist magician. His show, Dr Wilderness, ran for 30 years on American television.

The diagnosis was made shortly after he discovered a tiny bump on his left breast. However, Barnes paid little attention to it. It was his wife, Gaga Barnes, who suggested that he have the bump checked out just for peace of mind.

To his dismay, Barnes was diagnosed with stage one, group three cancer. This meant that although the cancer was found in its early stages, the type of cancer was aggressive.

A month after his diagnosis, Barnes was scheduled to have a mastectomy.

According to a study on male breast cancer, mastectomies are conducted in both male and females with breast cancer. Hormonal changes and imbalances are the most common causes of breast cancer in both sexes.

South African males at high risk

The Breast Health Foundation found that South Africa has the highest rates of male breast cancer in the world.

These hormonal changes can be caused by excessive drinking, obesity and liver disease. The liver plays a major role in regulating sex hormones.

When the liver does not work properly, it can cause an increase of the female hormone, oestrogen. Raised levels of oestrogen in the body increase the risk of breast cancer.

The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) mentions that males with prostate cancer often have to undergo a course of hormone therapy.

These hormone therapy drugs are made up of oestrogen-related drugs, thus increasing the risk of breast cancer in males. Individuals undergoing sexual reassignment surgeries may also be exposed to oestrogen-related drugs.

What to look for

According to the American Cancer Society, the signs males should look for when doing a breast cancer check include:

  • Swelling or lump in the breast area
  • Dimples in the skin of the breast
  • Nipple retraction
  • Nipple discharge
  • Scaling or redness

 Image credit: iStock


Ask the Expert

Cancer expert

CANSA’s purpose is to lead the fight against cancer in South Africa. Its mission is to be the preferred non-profit organisation that enables research, educates the public and provides support to all people affected by cancer. Questions are answered by CANSA’s Head of Health Professor Michael Herbst. For more information, visit

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