Breast cancer is also a man’s disease

A family history of breast cancer in men also increases the risk of developing breast cancer. PHOTO: Liberty Voice
A family history of breast cancer in men also increases the risk of developing breast cancer. PHOTO: Liberty Voice
According to the Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa), breast cancer is roughly 100 times less common to occur in men than in women, with the risk of a man getting cancer at about 1 in 794. The risk of a woman developing breast cancer is however 1 in 31.

The high prevalence of women developing breast cancer has however developed an assumption that it’s merely a woman’s disease. As a result, when men delay visiting the doctor for a check-up. In some instances, the cancer is already at an advanced stage once diagnosed, and chances of survival become very slim.

What makes it more difficult for men to consider breast cancer as a threat is the fact that many awareness campaigns, both nationally and internationally, rarely mention the risk of breast cancer in men.

While breast cancer may not be common in men, prostate cancer has been flagged by Cansa as the most likely type of cancer to affect men in comparison to lung, bladder and stomach cancer, with a risk of roughly 1 in 26. Lung cancer has a risk of 1 in 91 men, bladder cancer has a risk of 1 in 199 and stomach cancer has a risk of 1 in 226.

Another little known fact is that there are up to five types of breast cancer that men can develop at various stages of their lives, and can range from infected breast or nipple tissue. 

A family history of breast cancer in men also increases the risk of developing breast cancer, as it would in the case of women with the same family history. Male breast cancer is usually fuelled by oestrogen, a hormone found in both men and women.

Typically, men have higher testosterone hormone levels than women, and women have higher oestrogen levels than men. Both hormones are equally found in men and women.

As men get older, more oestrogen tends to be produced as testosterone levels decrease, increasing chances of breast cancer development. Other factors that can increase oestrogen levels besides age include being overweight, high alcohol intake taking hormonal medicines.

The best prevention for the disease is awareness. Visit your doctor to know more about your risk of breast cancer, its symptoms and get an accurate diagnosis. 

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