Though uncommon, breast cancer can appear in men. Approximately 1,200 cases of breast cancer appear in men each year.

In women, there are 200,000 new cases detected each year.

Hugh Sabahi, a radiologist at Columbia Memorial Hospital, says men think they don't have breasts, so aren't at risk of getting breast cancer.

But men do have some of the same breast tissues as women. Men, like women, have ducts - tiny tubes that carry milk from milk-producing glands to nipples in women - but only a few, if any, lobules (or milk-producing glands.)

During puberty, female hormones cause ducts to grow and lobules to form, but male hormones prevent growth of breast tissues.

Sabahi says gynecomastia - enlargement of a man's breast - can manifest itself as a lump, which is what most-often brings men in for an examination.

"When men come in for mammograms, they're embarrassed," Sabahi says. "We have done mammograms for lumps, but I haven't seen any breast cancer in men."

Lumps in men usually turn out to be inflammation of glandular tissues in men, he says. Lumps in women are usually caused by a tumor - whether benign or malignant. Lumps in men's breasts are usually much easier to detect than those found in women's breasts, because the breasts are so much smaller in men.

Breast cancer in men is rare enough that annual screenings, like men might receive for prostate or rectal cancers, aren't necessary.

Risk factors notedSabahi says risk factors for male breast cancer are a family history of breast cancer (in women and men), certain hormonal imbalances like those caused by cirrhosis of the liver, occupational exposure to carcinogens like high exposure to gas fumes, hot environments like foundries or steel mills, physical inactivity, obesity and having the breast cancer gene.

Breast cancer genes are tumor-suppressing genes that, when mutated, increase the risks of cancer in men and women.

Without the mutated gene, the risk of men getting breast cancer is .22 percent, in women it is 12 percent. If they do have the abnormal gene, the risk in men increases to 6 percent and women to 85 percent.

Blood tests to check DNA can detect the abnormal gene.


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