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Reuters Health Information (2011-10-19): Male breast cancer rare, but can be aggressive


Male breast cancer rare, but can be aggressive

Last Updated: 2011-10-19 11:19:25 -0400 (Reuters Health)

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Men get diagnosed with breast cancer at less than 1% the rate of women, according to a new analysis of cancer rates from six cities and countries.

But when they do get breast cancer, men are generally diagnosed with more advanced disease, and were more likely to die from it.

"It's not surprising that men with breast cancer present with later stages," said Dr. Susan Dent, from the Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre in Canada, who was not involved in the new study.

"That's just because the awareness of the fact that breast cancer can occur in men is not as acute," she told Reuters Health. "Men aren't as likely to think of it, and health care providers aren't as likely to think of men having breast cancer."

Men are most commonly in their 60s or 70s when diagnosed with breast cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Radiation exposure and diseases that increase estrogen levels - such as cirrhosis or Klinefelter syndrome - are among factors that raise a man's risk.

Dr. Dent added that screening for the disease should possibly be considered if men have a family history of it, or a predisposition to cancer caused by mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

Researchers studied data from cancer registries from Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Singapore and Geneva, Switzerland, with cases dating back to 1970. That included about 460,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer and about 2,700 men.

Men were more likely to have disease that had spread beyond the breast by the time they were diagnosed. In treatment, they also had less surgery and radiation compared to women, but similar rates of chemotherapy and hormone therapy.

Over the entire time period, men had a 72% chance of surviving breast cancer in the five years after a diagnosis -- compared to 78% in women.

But researchers led by Dr. Mikael Hartman of the National University of Singapore found that when their cancer was spotted at the same stage and they got recommended treatment, men had a better chance than women of surviving a breast cancer diagnosis.

Dr. Hartman's team also noted October 3 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology that previous studies have shown it typically takes a few months from when men start getting symptoms until they are diagnosed with breast cancer.

"Men who develop a breast lump delay seeing their doctor longer than a comparable woman would with similar symptoms," Dr. Hartman wrote in an email to Reuters Health.

"Male breast cancer is rare but men can develop the disease and should be aware that they should seek care if a breast lump develops," Dr. Hartman added.


J Clin Oncol 2011.

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