Breast cancer in men – Not a myth but a mystery

  • Breast cancer is a very common disease seen in older women.
  • Chances of breast cancer in men are very low at 1%, however, it cannot be dismissed.
  • Research suggests infertile men such as ones suffering from Klinefelter’s disease have a greater risk of breast cancer.

Cancer is defined as the abnormal multiplication of cells without any bodily need. In simple terms, cancer is a condition where due to a certain stimulus, the cells of the body start multiplying without any reason or physiological demand, thus increasing the number of “immature” cells in the body.

It’s quite natural for cells to multiply, especially after an injury or simply to replace old or worn-out cells in various tissues and organs. However, such a division remains controlled, there is a property known as “contact inhibition” exhibited by proliferating cells such that they don’t multiply beyond the actual demand. Such a property is lost in cancerous cells.

Breast cancer in women

Cancer of the breast tissue is known as carcinoma and it is a very common disease seen in women of the reproductive age group between 15-45 years. This cancer has a very strong genetic predisposition and the incidence of cases increases with age in women. It is also related to certain risk factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, drug, and radiation exposure, and early menarche(beginning of the menstrual cycle at puberty).

The most common symptoms observed include, “peau ‘d’ orange” or orange peel appearance of the breast due to obstruction of lymphatics, retraction of nipple, unusual nipple discharge, fixation of the breast, and back pain. Usually, the cancerous cells metastasize (infect other parts of the body) through the lymphatics. The most common area affected is the outer part of the breast near the axilla known as the “axillary tail of Spence”.

In the United States, the chances of a woman developing breast cancer are as high as 13%. This means that out of every 8 women 1 has a chance of developing breast cancer in her lifetime. Although the incidence is rare, the chances of breast cancer in men do exist, even as minimally as 1%. And now scientists are claiming that it can’t be ignored.

Breast cancer in men

New research suggests that breast cancer cases in infertile men are on the rise. The chances are almost doubled. Out of every 100 breast cancer patients, 1 male was found to be affected.

Almost 80-85 men lose their lives every year due to breast cancer in the UK. The numbers have risen dramatically in the case of the United States as it was reported in 2017 that almost 500 male breast cancer patients lost their lives. A recent study from the American Cancer Society shows that almost 2700 new male breast cancer cases were reported this year alone.

Etiology of breast cancer in males

Scientists have been baffled by the existence of breast cancer in males for ages. This is because they are not sure which gene exactly triggers the phenomenon in males. In the case of women, the causative mutations in the BRAC genes due to radiation exposure or hormonal imbalances and their role in breast cancer are well established.

While there isn’t enough concrete research being conducted on this matter, Dr. Jones and his colleagues have made some significant claims. They believe that the chances of breast cancer are very high amongst men who have Klinefelter’s Syndrome. Klinefelter’s disease is a genetic condition in men such that they have an extra X chromosome in their DNA. While the normal karyotype in males is 45+XY, the karyotype of diseased males appears as 45+ XXY.

The condition manifests in a variety of symptoms such as small testicles in males, development of rudimentary breasts, gynecomastia(production of breast milk) and female pattern of pubic hair among others. Due to Klinefelter’s, diseased men show poor testicular growth and sperm production which results in infertility which further results in breast cancer.

Another study reveals that men with more children are at a lower risk of breast cancer. This was quite shocking to the scientists but later a check on more men with no children proved the above fact. This study was done on both married and unmarried men with a good check on their clinical and fertility history.

 

 

 

 

 

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