Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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October 26, 2013

Men not immune to breast cancer

Corsicana — Though it’s significantly less common in men than women, breast cancer is not exclusive to women. That may surprise many men, who may not realize that they have breast tissue that can be susceptible to breast cancer just like their female counterparts.

The likelihood of a man developing breast cancer remains quite slim, as the American Cancer Society noted that they expected roughly 2,200 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnoses in men in 2013. But the relative rarity of male breast cancer cases does not mean it’s something men should take lightly, as a breast cancer diagnosis can be just as deadly for men as it can for women. Though male breast cancer prevention can be difficult because of the uncertainty surrounding the cause of the disease, men who understand the risk factors are in a better position to handle a diagnosis than those who don’t.

• Age: Age plays a role in many cancer diagnoses, and male breast cancer is no exception. According to the ACS, the average age a male is diagnosed with breast cancer is 68, and a man’s risk increases as he ages.

• Alcohol and liver disease: Heavy alcohol consumption increases a man’s risk for breast cancer, and this can be connected to liver disease, which is another risk factor for male breast cancer. Heavy alcohol consumption can make men more likely to develop liver disease, including cirrhosis. Men with severe liver disease tend to have high estrogen levels because the liver finds it more difficult to control hormonal activity. Higher estrogen levels have been linked to breast cancer risk for men and women alike.

• Family history: Just like age, family history can increase a man’s risk for various cancers, including breast cancer. The ACS notes that roughly 20 percent of men with breast cancer have close male and female blood relatives who also have or have had the disease.

• Inherited gene mutations: Gene mutations greatly increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer, and they can be risky for men as well. Men with a mutation in the BRCA2 gene have a lifetime risk of breast cancer of about 6 percent. A mutated BRCA1 gene also can increase a man’s risk of breast cancer but not as significantly as a mutated BRCA2 gene. Mutations in these genes are most often found in families with significant histories of breast and/or ovarian cancer. But even men with no such family history can have the gene mutations associated with breast cancer. Mutations in the CHEK2 and PTEN genes can also increase a man’s risk for breast cancer.

• Klinefelter syndrome: A congenital condition affecting roughly one in 1,000 men, Klinefelter syndrome occurs when a man’s chromosome count is abnormal. A typical male body has cells with a single X chromosome and a single Y chromosome, but men with Klinefelter syndrome have cells with a Y chromosome and at least two and as many as four X chromosomes. Men with Klinefelter syndrome are often infertile, and, when compared to other men, they have more female hormones than male hormones. Though Klinefelter syndrome is so rare that it’s hard to study, some studies have found that men with this condition are more likely to develop breast cancer than other men.

• Obesity: Recent studies have begun to show that women who are obese have a greater risk of developing breast cancer, and researchers feel obesity poses a similar threat to men. That’s because fat cells in the body convert male hormones into female hormones, which means obese men will have higher estrogen levels than men who are not obese.

• Radiation exposure: Men who have undergone radiation treatment in their chest area have a higher risk of developing breast cancer than those who have not. Lymphoma treatments may require radiation treatment to the chest, so men who have been diagnosed with lymphoma might be at a heightened risk of breast cancer.

While the overwhelming majority of breast cancer patients are female, men should know they aren’t immune to this potentially deadly disease.

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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Want to “Soundoff” on this story? Email: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com

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