Breast cancer – a rare, but possible diagnosis for men

Now they want men to buy more pink stuff…

Although breast cancer in men is rare, it does happen. In the United States, about one percent of all breast cancers occur in men.1 

We still have much to learn about breast cancer in men because the diagnosis is so rare. Most of what we know about breast cancer is related to breast cancer in women. While there are some similarities between breast cancer in women and men, there appear to be some differences. Here, we give a brief overview. This summary may be helpful if you or a man you know (or love) has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

What are the numbers?

In 2013, it is estimated that among U.S. men there will be:

  • 2,240 new cases of breast cancer (compared to 232,340 among women)
  • 410 breast cancer deaths (compared to 39,620 among women)

Breast cancer rates in men have remained stable over the past 30 years.

The male breast

Boys and girls begin life with similar breast tissue. Over time, however, men do not have the same complex breast growth and development as women. At puberty, high testosterone and low estrogen levels stop breast development in males.

In adult women, breast tissue is a complex network of lobules and ducts in a pattern that looks like bunches of grapes (see image). Lobules are small round sacs that produce milk and ducts are the canals that carry milk from the lobules to the nipple openings during breastfeeding. In men, some milk ducts exist, but they remain undeveloped. Lobules are most often absent.




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