Risk Factors for Male Breast Cancer
It’s important to understand the risk factors for male breast cancer — particularly because men are not routinely screened for the disease and don’t think about the possibility that they’ll get it. As a result, breast cancer tends to be more advanced in men than in women when it is first detected.
A number of factors can increase a man’s risk of getting breast cancer:
• Growing older: This is the biggest factor. Just as is the case for women, risk increases as age increases. The average age of men diagnosed with breast cancer is about 68.
• High estrogen levels: Breast cell growth — both normal and abnormal — is stimulated by the presence of estrogen.
Men can have high estrogen levels as a result of:
- taking hormonal medicines
- being overweight, which increases the production of estrogen
- having been exposed to estrogens in the environment (such as estrogen and other hormones fed to fatten up beef cattle, or the breakdown products of the pesticide DDT, which can mimic the effects of estrogen in the body)
- being heavy users of alcohol, which can limit the liver’s ability to regulate blood estrogen levels
- having liver disease, which usually leads to lower levels of androgens (male hormones) and higher levels of estrogen (female hormones). This increases the risk of developing gynecomastia (breast tissue growth that is non-cancerous) as well as breast cancer.