Even though breast cancer diagnoses in men are 100 times less common than in women, approximately 2,470 men will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. In addition, approximately 460 men will die from breast cancer in 2017. The overall lifetime risk of being diagnosed with cancer for a man is 1 in 1,000.
Men can be diagnosed with cancer because men have breast tissue too. Before the onset of puberty, both boys and girls have breast tissue that is made up of a few ducts, located under the nipple and areola. Once puberty begins, hormones encourage breast tissue growth in girls, including duct growth and lobule formation. Boys, with low levels of these hormones, do not have such significant breast tissue growth, although they may have a few lobules, if any at all. This small level of breast tissue and ducts can still become cancerous. The likelihood of cancer in men is significantly less than in women as men have much lower levels of female hormones, and their breast tissue is much less developed than a woman’s breast tissue. Unfortunately, breast cancer in men has a higher mortality rate, as detection and screening is not as prevalent, and men are more likely to discount a lump as something other than cancer.