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Male Breast Cancer

By on July 20, 2014

A man’s lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is about 1/10 of 1%, or one in 1,000. But breast cancer does occur in men and is often diagnosed at a later age and stage than in women, experts say.

Male breast cancer is a rare condition, accounting for only about 1% of all breast cancers. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2013, about 2,240 new cases of breast cancer in men would be diagnosed and that breast cancer would cause approximately 410 deaths in men (in comparison, almost 40,000 women die of breast cancer each year).

Breast cancer in men is typically diagnosed at a later age and stage than in women because men don’t believe they’re at risk for the disease, said Dr. Tatiana Prowell, a medical oncologist and breast cancer scientific lead at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s office of hematology and oncology products.

“You’d think that because men have smaller breasts they would notice a lump instantly. But men don’t expect a breast lump to be cancer, whereas most women who feel a breast lump immediately assume the worst,” she said.

Because breast cancer in men accounts for only 1 percent of all breast cancer cases, there is little research into treatments for men with the disease.


The average size of breast cancer in men when first discovered is about 2.5 cm in diameter. The cancer may cause skin changes in the area of the nipple. These changes can include ulceration of the skin, puckering or dimpling, redness or scaling of the nipple, or retraction (turning inward) of the nipple.

“We tend to treat men the same way we treat women,” Prowell said.

“Men have historically been excluded from breast cancer trials,” she added. “We are actively encouraging drug companies to include men in all breast cancer trials unless there is a valid scientific reason not to. The number of men in breast cancer trials will still be small because male breast cancer is a rare condition, but any information to help men facing this disease is better than none.”

Most men with breast cancer have painless lumps that can be detected by touch, but the disease usually isn’t diagnosed until they develop soreness, she said.


Some content for this article provided by the American Cancer Society.