One less known and less spoken fact about breast cancer is that the disease attacks men too. Although, this type of cancer is less common in men than in women, one should not remain ignorant about it. Many are bothered with a concern that men don’t have breasts, so how can they get breast cancer? Well, the reality is both men and women have breast tissues. The difference lies in the hormones. In women, the various hormones stimulate the breast tissue to grow into full breasts whereas the men’s bodies don’t make much of the breast-stimulating hormones. Therefore, the breast tissues in men appear to be flat and small.
In rare cases, men do develop real breast gland tissue and the sizes of their breasts appear slightly bigger than the normal. The reason could be the intake of certain medicines as well as have abnormal hormone levels. Since the disease is rare in men, they almost neglect the fact that there is a possibility to get the disease. Hence, breast cancer tends to be more advanced in men than in women when it is first detected.
What are the risk factors involved in men breast cancer?
- Age – The age factor is similar to women. Older you grow, bigger are the chances of being affected by the disease. Men who are mostly above the age of sixty are diagnosed with breast cancer.
- High estrogen levels – The growth of breast cells is controlled by the presence of estrogen. Men are bound to have high level of estrogen because of taking hormonal medicines, overweight, exposure to estrogens in the environment, heavy consumption of alcohol limits the liver’s ability to regulate blood estrogen levels and lastly the liver disease leading to lower levels of androgens (male hormones) and higher levels of estrogen (female hormones).
- Klinefelter syndrome – It is a condition present at birth that affects about one in thousand men. Men with Klinefelter syndrome have lower levels of androgens (male hormones) and higher levels of estrogens (female hormones). Therefore, they have a higher risk of developing gynecomastia (breast tissue growth that is non-cancerous) and breast cancer.
- Family history or genetic mutations – If other men of the family in the past had breast cancer, there is possibility of one having the disease. Men who inherit abnormal BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes have an increased risk of male breast cancer. The lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is approximately 1% with the BRCA1 gene mutation and 6% with the BRCA2 gene mutation.
- Radiation exposure – If a man has been treated with radiation to the chest such as for lymphoma in the past, he has an increased risk of developing breast cancer later.
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