Breast cancer in men

Posted 20 Oct 2017.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women of all ages, but it also occurs in men. In 2014* 14 men were diagnosed with breast cancer in WA.

While men have low levels of female hormones and their breast tissue doesn't grow much, they do have tissue that is biologically the same as female breast tissue.

"Men's breast tissue has ducts but only a few, if any, lobules - which are the type of cells that grow more commonly at the end of female ducts. Abnormal growth can occur in the duct tissue, and that can lead to cancer" our Education and Research Director, Terry Slevin, explains.

"There are a number of sub types of breast cancer in men (as there are in women). The most common signs are a painless growth or lump near or behind the nipple. Pain, discharge, swelling or change in shape or appearance around the nipple or pecks," he said.

90% of breast cancer in men is diagnosed after the age of 50 and your risk is increased if you have a strong family history of female or male breast cancer or ovarian cancer on either side of the family.

As our population ages, we're likely to see a gradual increase in the number of Australian men diagnosed with breast cancer each year, so it's important that information and support is available to men and their families.

"Like most cancers early diagnosis and treatment offers the best chance for successful outcomes. Men are notoriously slow to report to their doctor with health problems. This is another reason to ensure men take advantage of the system that's there to look after their health," said Terry.

What are the causes of breast cancer in men?

The causes of breast cancer are not as well known for men as they are for women. While more research is needed in this area we do know some of factors that can increase a man's risk of developing breast cancer, these include:

- Family history of breast and some other cancers
- High levels of oestrogen
- Klinefelter's syndrome - a rare condition where men have two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome (XXY instead of XY).
- Risk increases with age

How can you reduce your risk? 

More research into male breast cancer is needed in order to identify lifestyle risk factors. However, we do know that at least a third of all cancers could be prevented by making changes to our lifestyle. Even small lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of developing cancer, along with other chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. We recommend:

- Getting at least 30 to 60 minutes or more of moderate to intensity physical activity on most days of the week
- Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight
Avoiding alcohol - if you choose to drink, limit your alcohol intake
- Ensuring you're SunSmart
- Not smoking

More information?

- If you have any questions about breast cancer, cancer in general, or our research, support and education programs, give our Cancer Nurses a call on 13 11 20
- To find out more about the four breast cancer research projects we're funding this year, visit our research page
- To make a donation in support of West Aussies affected by breast cancer, visit our make a donation page


*'Cancer incidence and mortality in Western Australia, 2014', this is the most recent cancer incidence data set in WA. Learn more about incidence and statistics on our cancer incidence page.

Found in:  News - 2017  | View all news