Breast cancer can develop in anyone, but it is more common in females than males. There are differences and similarities in the causes and risk factors of male and female breast cancer.
Learning the signs and symptoms of breast cancer can help people know when and how to get help. It is also possible for a person to take preventative steps to reduce their chance of developing breast cancer.
This article discusses the similarities and differences between female and male breast cancer. It also looks at causes, symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options.
Other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), females on average have a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer. They predict that around 281,550 females will receive a diagnosis of invasive breast cancer in 2021.
Breast cancer is much less common in males, who account for around
White females are more likely to develop breast cancer than those of other ethnicities. However, Black females are more likely to develop aggressive breast cancer. They are also more likely to die from the illness.
The ACS notes that breast cancer is 100 times less common among white males than among white females. It is 70 times less common among Black males than Black females.
Black males have the highest incidence of breast cancer among males.
Based on figures from 2013 to 2017, the
|Ethnicity||Number of females per 100,000||Number of males per 100,000|
|American Indian/Alaskan Native||94.9||0.6|
There are two reasons why breast cancer is more common in females than males.
Most breast cancers begin in the milk ducts and the lobules, the structures containing the milk-producing glands.
Both male and female breast tissue consists of a few ducts under the nipple and areola until puberty. During puberty, females develop increased levels of certain hormones which cause these ducts to grow and lobules to form.
Males typically have low levels of these hormones, and as a result, the breast tissue does not grow as much. Although male breasts have ducts, they only have a few lobules and mainly consist of fat tissue.
The more that cells divide, the more chance there is of cancer occurring. Breast cells grow and divide as a response to the hormone estrogen, which females typically produce more of than males.
BreastCancer.org notes that breast cells in females are highly active and receptive to estrogen, while breast cells in males are inactive and not exposed to high estrogen levels
Healthcare professionals do not fully understand the causes of breast cancer. However, there are known risk factors. Some vary between males and females, and some are shared.
Male-specific risk factors include:
Female-specific risk factors include:
While there have not been as many studies of male breast cancer as there have of female breast cancer, researchers have identified the
According to the ACS, female breast cancer rates increase with age until the seventh decade. The typical age of diagnosis in females is 62. Although rates increase with age among females of all ethnicities, non-Hispanic Black females have higher incidence rates than non-Hispanic white females before age 40.
Male breast cancer rates also increase with age, and males are often diagnosed much later, at 72 years old on average.
Inherited gene mutations, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, can increase the chance of breast cancer in females and males.
The ACS states that males with the BRCA2 gene have a lifetime risk of approximately 6 in 100. Males with the BRCA1 gene have a lifetime risk of 1 in 100.
Females with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes have a 7 in 10 chance of developing breast cancer by age 80.
Approximately 1 in 5 males with breast cancer have a close family member who has had the disease.
The risk of developing breast cancer is about 1.5 times higher for females with one first-degree female relative affected by breast cancer than those with no family history of the illness. It is 2–4 times higher for females with more than one first-degree relative who has had breast cancer.
Other risk factors for breast cancer include:
Breast cancer symptoms usually include a lump, or multiple lumps, in the breast area or under the armpit. These lumps typically:
The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) notes that most breast lumps are noncancerous.
In males, breast lumps can occur due to enlarged male breast tissue, a fatty lump called a lipoma, or a cyst. In females, they can occur as a result of tissue growth called fibroadenoma or a cyst.
Other symptoms of breast cancer include:
If a person notices any symptoms of breast cancer, they should seek medical advice.
To determine if a person has breast cancer, a doctor will perform an examination and a symptom assessment. After the exam, they may order a mammogram and breast ultrasound.
For a lump that the doctor suspects may be cancerous, they will request a biopsy to confirm.
If the results are positive, a doctor will advise the person on the best treatment plan. Imaging tests such as CT and MRI scans can help a doctor diagnose the stage of breast cancer and determine if it has spread elsewhere in the body.
Doctors use the same treatment options for both female and male breast cancer, including:
Treatment may require a combination of therapies.