This October for breast cancer awareness, we’re going to discuss breast cancer in men. Because, unfortunately, this disease is an equal opportunity disease that affects BOTH sexes.
Now, invasive breast cancer in men is RARE. In the United States approximately 2,470 men each year are diagnosed with the disease. By comparison, approximately 252,710 women will be diagnosed in 2017 with the disease, which means breast cancer is about 100 times greater in women than in men.
But WHY are men affected in the first place? To understand this, we first need to understand that both women and men have breast tissue that is known as "nonfunctioning breast tissue," or breast tissue that does not produce milk. Women possess much more of this tissue, but men still have a small amount. It's this tissue that is susceptible to the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that lead to breast cancer.
Further, many of the risk factors for male breast cancer are the same as those for female breast cancer. So, let's get started with the four major risk factors for male breast cancer:
- Radiation Exposure. Men who have undergone radiation therapy to the chest for issues related to Hodgkin's lymphoma or lung disease have an increased risk for breast cancer.
- High Estrogen. An increase of estrogen in males will result in more breast tissue and breast enlargement – a condition known as gynecomastia. And, the three primary conditions that may account for an increase in estrogen include Klinefelter's Syndrome, cirrhosis of the liver, and obesity. The presence of any of these conditions may lead to the development of breast cancer.
- Finasteride Use. This is a drug also known as Propecia or Proscar. It's used to treat hair loss, benign conditions of the prostate AND to prevent prostate cancer. Unfortunately, its use to improve or prevent one condition may lead to the development of another harmful condition – in this case, breast cancer.
- Family Medical History. Most of us in the cancer world know that an anomaly of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes in women is linked with an increased risk for breast cancer. And, most of us know that women who have female family members with breast cancer run a greater risk for the disease themselves.
But, it's also true than men who have several female relatives with breast cancer also have an increased risk for developing breast cancer themselves. Such men may have inherited an anomaly of the BRCA2. If so, these men have an increased risk for not only breast cancer, but for prostate cancer as well.
Now that we know the four major risk factors for this disease in men, let's discuss four significant symptoms of breast cancer in men:
- Lumps and Bumps: Any raised or hardened area of the breast tissue should be inspected by one's physician immediately.
- Change In the Nipple: If the appearance of one or both nipples should change in any way again it’s necessary to contact one's physician.
- Discoloration: This might include redness or scaling of the nipple or the breast tissue around the nipple.
- Discharge: Any discharge from the nipple may indicate the presence of cancerous cells. Similar to women, men also need to be aware of their bodies. Men need to pay attention to their bodies, undergo self-exams and know the risk factors for this disease because breast cancer is not just an issue for women – it's an issue for men as well.
As we go through Pinktober this year, let's all remember that the best defense for any cancer is a strong offense. Always be aware of your personal risks and then take a proactive approach to protect your health and your life!
What are you doing for breast cancer awareness this year? Share your thoughts in the comments below
Image courtesy of Nonsap Visuals.