The Relationship Between Male Breast Cancer and Gynecomastia

Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death in women. But did you know that women aren’t the only ones affected by this disease? Believe it or not, men are also susceptible to breast cancer. While this occurs in men far less than in women, it is still a cause for concern.  According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 2,240 cases of breast cancer in men will be diagnosed in 2013. About 410 men will die this year from breast cancer. And, though it is less likely (approximately 100 times less likely) for men to develop breast cancer than women, with statistics like this, it is still a cause for concern.

In order to help you better understand this disease in men, it is important to understand the causes and why it happens.

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Image courtesy of ShutterStock

What is male breast cancer?

Cancer refers to any malignant tumor, or the development of a group of abnormal cells, in any part of the body. Cancer becomes harmful to the body when these abnormal cells divide uncontrollably and form lumps or tumors. Tumors can grow and interfere with the digestive, nervous, and circulatory systems and they can release hormones that alter body function. These cells can develop in the breast tissue of a male. The development of this disease is rare in men and is quite worrisome. The collection of abnormal cells can grow quite large and take over surrounding tissues. It can also metastasize, or spread, into other parts of the body. Many men don’t know they are susceptible and in turn aren’t getting screened by a doctor the way women have been taught to do.

What causes male breast cancer?

Just like in women, we are not exactly certain what causes the development of breast cancer in men. It could be linked to genetics or environmental conditions, and recent studies are indicating that it could also be linked to gynecomastia.

Gynecomastia refers to an increased production in the amount of tissue in a man’s breast. Men naturally have breast tissue, but since their breasts are not used in the same manner as women’s, they normally don’t produce large amounts of this tissue. However, in the case of gynecomastia or pseudogynecomastia, there are instances when there is an increase in the development of this tissue.

When there is an excessive amount of breast tissue, it is believed that there is a greater chance of the development of abnormal cells, which can lead to the development of breast cancer.

Signs of Gynecomastia

Typically, breast tissue in men is too small to be felt or seen. However, in cases of gynecomastia, there is usually the feeling of a growth under or around the nipple and areola. In more extreme cases, men can actually develop small breasts.

Link between Gynecomastia and Male Breast Cancer

The development of gynecomastia is linked to an excessive production of estrogen. Extra breast tissue and an increased amount of estrogen in the male body is thought to increase the chance of breast cancer developing in men. While the studies on this connection are still in the beginning stages, evidence does suggest a link. More needs to be learned and studies are continuously being conducted in order to determine the exact correlation of these two conditions.

While breast cancer occurs less in men than in women, it is still important for both genders to check themselves regularly.

About the author

Dr. Mordcai Blau is specialist in gynecomastia surgery and performs almost 300 gynecomastia surgeries each year. He has been published by the American Society for Plastic Surgeons as a gynecomastia surgeon. He has also been featured on The Learning Channel (TLC) as a male breast reduction surgeon. He is a surgeon's surgeon and has operated on and is highly recommended by other physicians-including plastic surgeons. Dr. Mordcai Blau is passionate about sharing his knowledge of expertise of gynecomastia and male breast reduciton surgery.

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