Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Men and Breast Cancer

Because men aren’t typically known for their estrogen reserves, I figured that the 1500 or so men a year who get breast cancer would get the hormone-negative form. Research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine proves otherwise. In fact, researchers found that 81 percent of breast cancers in men were estrogen-positive, compared to about 75 percent for women.

Still the odds are 100:1 against men getting breast cancer. Those who do are typically slightly older than women at diagnosis, with a median age of 68 compared to 63 for women. As with women, hormonal abnormalities are a risk factor for men; these can be demonstrated by testicular abnormalities such as undescended testes, congenital inguinal hernia, and testicular injury.

Because 15 to 20 percent of men with breast cancer have a family history of the disease—compared to 7 percent of the general population—the researchers suspect that the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes might be a factor in male breast cancer. Family history was a significant factor if other members were diagnosed before age 50.

Other risk factors in men:
•Klinefelter syndrome (an extra “X” chromosome);
•Benign breast conditions (nipple discharge, breast cysts, and breast trauma);
•Radiation exposure;
•Jewish ancestry.

I did a little extra research on that last one. According to the the John W. Nick Foundation , an advocacy group focused on male breast cancer, Jewish men most at risk are of Ashkenazi ancestry (Eastern Euopean/ Russian descent) with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer.

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