Yet for those who develop the disease, finding the cancer earlier leads to more successful treatment. These factors can help you determine if you’re at risk.
Age – Older men are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s most often diagnosed in men in their 60s and 70s.
Estrogen and radiation exposure – Men who have taken estrogen-related drugs like those used in hormone therapy for prostate cancer are at increased risk. Men who’ve had radiation for treatment of another type of cancer in the chest also are at higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Family history – Just like nearly all types of cancer, family history is an important risk factor for male breast cancer. Those with close family members with the disease are at increased risk. According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 1 in five men who are diagnosed with breast cancer have a close relative with the disease.
Obesity – Men who are obese often have higher levels of estrogen in their body, increasing the risk for developing male breast cancer.
Liver disease and alcohol consumption – The liver is partly responsible for regulating sex hormone levels in the body. With severe liver disease like cirrhosis, the liver isn’t working properly, leading to higher levels of estrogen (female hormones) and lower levels of androgens (male hormones). Liver disease in men can lead to a higher chance of developing a benign growth in their breast tissue and at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Heaving drinking plays a role in increasing male breast cancer specifically because of alcohol’s effects on the liver.
Klinefelter Syndrome – This hereditary condition occurs in 1 in 1,000 males causing a chromosomal variation, resulting in an XXY sex chromosome. This extra X chromosome can impact physical, behavioral, development and cognitive functioning, including small testicles and infertility. Men with Klinefelter Syndrome have lower levels of male hormones and higher levels of female hormones, potentially leading to a benign male breast growth called gynecomastia. Men with Klinefelter syndrome are at increased risk for breast cancer – between 20 and 60 times higher than men of average risk.
Gene mutations – Just like women, some men are born with a genetic defect or mutation in the BRCA2 gene, leading to an increased risk of breast cancer. The lifetime risk for individuals with a BRCA2 gene mutation is roughly 6 in 100. BRCA1 mutations present a lower risk – about 1 in 100 – but can also cause male breast cancer. Strong history of breast cancer makes these conditions more likely, but men can also experience breast cancer without a family history of the disease. Other mutations in the CHEK2, PTEN and PLALB2 genes have also been identified as possible causes for breast cancers in men.
CHI Memorial Rees Skillern Cancer Institute offers genetic counseling services to help you understand your cancer risk. Click here for more information or call (423) 495-6744.