Beth Israsel Deaconess Hospital - Plymouth

          

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Male Breast Cancer

While rare, men can also develop breast cancer. Men at any age may develop breast cancer, but it is usually detected (found) in men between 60 and 70 years of age. Male breast cancer makes up less than 1% of all cases of breast cancer.

The American Cancer Society estimates for breast cancer in men in the United States for 2014 are:

  • About 2,360 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed
  • About 430 men will die from breast cancer

Breast cancer is about 100 times less common among men than among women. For men, the lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000. The number of breast cancer cases in men relative to the population has been fairly stable over the last 30 years.

Since men have breast tissue like women they can develop many of the same types of tumors as women and are often treated the same way by any combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

Benign breast conditions

Men can also have some benign (not cancerous) breast disorders.

Gynecomastia

Gynecomastia is the most common male breast disorder. It is not a tumor but rather an increase in the amount of a man's breast tissue. Usually, men have too little breast tissue to be felt or noticed. Gynecomastia presents as a mass in the breast, usually under the nipple that is often tender. Some men have more severe gynecomastia and they may appear to have small breasts. Although gynecomastia is much more common than breast cancer in men, both can be felt as a growth under the nipple, which is why it's important to have any such lumps checked by your doctor.

Some men have more severe gynecomastia and they may appear to have small breasts. Although gynecomastia is much more common than breast cancer in men, both can be felt as a growth under the nipple, which is why it's important to have any such lumps checked by your doctor. Gynecomastia is common among teenage boys because the balance of hormones in the body changes during adolescence. It is also common in older men due to changes in their hormone balance.

In rare cases, gynecomastia occurs because tumors or diseases of certain endocrine (hormone-producing) glands cause a man's body to make more estrogen (the main female hormone). Men's glands normally make some estrogen, but not enough to cause breast growth. Diseases of the liver, which is an important organ in male and female hormone metabolism, can change a man's hormone balance and lead to gynecomastia. Obesity (being extremely overweight) can also cause higher levels of estrogens in men.

Some medicines can cause gynecomastia. These include some drugs used to treat ulcers and heartburn, high blood pressure, and heart failure. Men with gynecomastia should ask their doctors if any medicines they are taking might be causing this condition.

Klinefelter syndrome, a rare genetic condition, can lead to gynecomastia as well as increase a man's risk of developing breast cancer. This condition is discussed further in the section, What are the risk factors for breast cancer in men?

Benign breast tumors

There are many types of benign breast tumors (abnormal lumps or masses of tissue), such as papillomas and fibroadenomas. Benign tumors do not spread outside the breast and are not life threatening. Benign breast tumors are common in women but are very rare in men.

BID-Plymouth
275 Sandwich Street
Plymouth, MA 02360
(508) 746-2000

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