Perhaps because it’s significantly less frequent, breast cancer in men is often overlooked. However, breast cancer is as serious in men who have it as in women, and can be just as harmful.

There’s no question that more women then men get breast cancer. Only about one in 1,000 men—compared to one in eight women—get breast cancer, and men account for one percent of breast cancer patients. Men typically have less breast tissue than women, as well as lower amounts of the hormones associated with breast cancer. As with women, mutations in the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 can leave men particularly prone to developing cancer in breast tissue. In men, the BRCA2 mutation causes the greatest risk.

Some of the risk factors for men are the same as those for women, though others are not:

  • A family history of breast cancer, including in female relatives.
  • Obesity.
  • Enlarged breasts, a condition called gynecomastia
  • Exposure to estrogen.
  • The genetic condition Klinefelter’s syndrome.
  • Testicular injury or disease.
  • Liver disease.
  • Exposure to radiation in the area of the chest.

Breast cancer in men has the same stages as in women. It’s really the same disease; the differences are due entirely to the differences in male versus female breast tissue. However, because breast cancer is so much rarer in men than in women, and because even doctors so seldom think of it at first, it’s not as often caught in the early stages.

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