Breast cancer is the leading cancer for women of all ethnicities in the United States, aside from non-melanoma skin cancer. Due to the difference in breast structure between men and women, and the level of estrogen, more than 99% of breast cancer cases are diagnosed in women.
Caucasian women have a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer; however African American women have a slightly higher risk of developing aggressive, advanced-stage breast cancer.
Breast cancer risk doubles for women who have a first-degree relative who has had breast cancer — about 20%-30% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have a family member who also has had breast cancer. However, up to 80% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history and it is believed that cancer occurs due to genetic abnormalities that result from the natural process of aging. About 5%-10% of breast cancers are linked to gene mutations a woman inherits from her mother or father. A woman who carries a gene mutation has an increased risk of up to (80%) of developing breast cancer during her life.
Women who are overweight or obese have a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer or recurrence of breast cancer. In addition, not having children at all or not having a full-term pregnancy after age 30 is associated with a higher risk of breast cancer.
Although breast cancer in men is rare, men have a small amount of breast tissue and can develop the same types of breast cancers as women. Less than 1% of all new breast cancer cases develop in men. On average 2000 men are diagnosed with breast cancer in the US each year.
Risk factors for men are similar to those for women, but also include: Klinefelter syndrome, a congenital condition affecting about 1 in 1,000 men, Testicular conditions, Excessive use of alcohol, Liver disease, Radiation exposure, Exposure to estrogen, Breast cancer risk in men increases with age. It is most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 50 and 70. Cancers related to gene mutations often occur in people younger than age 60. Symptoms of breast cancer in men are very similar to those in women. However, tumors are usually smaller but may be more advanced upon diagnosis because men have very little breast tissue; so the tumor doesn’t have far to grow before invading other tissues or the lymph nodes.
For both women and men with a strong family history of breast cancer, it is important to do monthly self-exams and to have any changes examined immediately by your physician.