Although breast cancer is frequently thought of as a woman’s issue, it can also affect men. Breast cancer is a unique type of cancer that begins in the breast tissue. Since men, just like women have breast tissue, they too are susceptible to the disease.
Know the Risks
One of the most alarming factors about breast cancer in men is that no single cause has been identified. While most cancers can be linked to specific risk factors, some male breast cancer patients do not have any known risk factors. These factors may include:
- Age. For men, breast cancer risk often increases with age. Men over 60 make up the majority of men diagnosed with the disease.
- Genetic mutations. A genetic mutation describes any changes to a gene that may increase the risk of developing breast cancer. This may also include inherited gene mutations or those that are passed on to children from their parents. A very small portion of male breast cancer cases are the result of an inherited gene mutation. Men with a BRCA2 gene mutation have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Additionally, men with a mutation in the BRCA1 gene are also at an increased risk, but not as great as those with the BRCA2 mutation.
- Family history. Men with close relatives, regardless of gender, that have been diagnosed with breast cancer are at greater risk of developing the disease. The more relatives a man has that have been diagnosed with breast cancer, the higher his chances are of developing it as well.
- Exposure to radiation. Radiation exposure, especially to the chest area, has been known to increase the risk of developing breast cancer in men.
- Klinefelter syndrome. This inherited genetic disorder is very rare. Men with Klinefelter syndrome have higher levels of estrogen and lower levels of androgens than most men. This has been associated with a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
In addition to these common risk factors, a number of other possible risk factors have been associated with the development of breast cancer in men. These include:
- Estrogen treatment
- Alcohol consumption
- Occupational exposures
With so many known risk factors, talking with your doctor is your best defense against the disease. They can work with you to identify possible risk factors and help you develop a prevention plan if necessary.