a man
Healthy Living

Can Men Really Get Breast Cancer?

Oct 14 2022

A lot of people might think of breast cancer as only a woman’s disease, but that isn’t accurate.

Men can actually get breast cancer, too. However, it’s rarer for a man to get it than it is for a woman. And while male breast cancer can develop at any age, it is more common in older men.

As with most types of cancer, early detection and treatment typically increases the chance for a positive outcome.

So, how common is male breast cancer?

As of 2020, the ratio of male breast cancer to female breast cancer was 1 to 99. That means for every 100 people who get breast cancer, one is typically a man.

Even though the ratio of male breast cancer cases is lower than it is for women, it’s still a significant number. It breaks down to about 2,650 new cases each year, or one out of every 833 men in the United States.   

Male breast cancer risk factors

Male breast cancer causes aren’t especially clear. However, there are a variety of known risk factors.

Some things known to increase the risk of developing male breast cancer include:

  • Age: The average age for a man to get a breast cancer diagnosis is 72.
  • Alcohol consumption: Heavy drinking is a common risk factor for this type of cancer.
  • Estrogen-related medications: Some estrogen-based prostate cancer drugs and gender reassignment drugs can increase the risk of male breast cancer.
  • Family history: Gene mutations that run in families can increase a man’s risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Klinefelter syndrome: Men who are born with Klinefelter syndrome can have an increased risk of developing this kind of cancer. It is when a man is born with an extra X chromosome.
  • Liver disease: Men with liver disease can have a higher amount of estrogen in the body, which increases the risk of getting breast cancer.
  • Obesity: Overweight men have more estrogen stored in the body, which can increase the risk of breast cancer.
  • Radiation exposure: Chest-area radiation treatments can make it more likely for a man to develop this type of cancer.
  • Testicular conditions: A number of testicular conditions can increase the risk of a man developing breast cancer.

Male breast cancer symptoms

Several common male breast cancer signs can also be found with other conditions. So, if you experience any of these common symptoms, reach out to your primary care provider right way. Getting an exam and a professional opinion can give you peace of mind. It can also help you get treatment started as quickly as possible if you do have this type of cancer.

Common symptoms of male breast cancer include:

  • Concave nipple or nipple pulling inward
  • Dimpled skin
  • Flaking skin
  • Irritated skin
  • Lump in breast tissue
  • Nipple discharge
  • Nipple pain
  • Red skin
  • Swollen breast tissue

Male breast cancer treatment

The same techniques used to treat female breast cancer are usually used to treat men with this condition.

Some of the commonly used male breast cancer treatments include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Lumpectomy
  • Mastectomy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Targeted therapies

Learn more about breast cancer as well as the cancer care services we offer at Mercy Health. 

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