Source : Yahoo News
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Male breast cancer is on the rise in the United States -- bad news for men and their doctors, who do not even know to look for it, researchers reported on Monday.
Although the disease remains extremely rare -- just 1,600 cases are predicted for 2004 -- the 25 percent increase in 25 years is worrying, said Dr. Sharon Giordano of the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, who led the study.
"I don't think anybody had specifically looked to see if male breast cancer had been increasing over time, because it is so rare," Giordano said in a telephone interview.
"I was surprised to find that it was increasing, although in retrospect I should have known. We have seen a huge increase in breast cancer in woman, as well."
No one knows why, added Giordano, a specialist in breast cancer. In both sexes breast cancer is related to the hormone estrogen, so obesity could be a factor. Fat cells produce estrogen.
So could environmental chemicals, or changes in lifestyle.
Giordano stresses that a great deal more study is needed but noted, "Anecdotally, the male patients I am seeing and treating haven't been heavy and overweight."
Even with the increase, male breast cancer represents just 0.6 percent of all breast cancers and less than 1 percent of all malignancies in men, Giordano's team reports in the July issue of the journal Cancer, published online this week.
Her team analyzed data from the National Cancer Institute (news - web sites)'s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results 1973 to 1998 database, which represents about 14 percent of the U.S. population.
They found the incidence of male breast cancer rose from 0.86 per 100,000 men in 1973 to 1.08 per 100,000 men in 1998.
"While, it's not as high of an increase in cases as that in women, men should be alert to the possibility that the disease could affect them," Giordano said.
They looked specifically at 2,524 cases of male breast cancer and 380,856 cases of female breast cancer over the 25 years. Compared to female patients, men with breast cancer were older when diagnosed, age 67 for men versus 62 for the average woman, and were more likely to have advanced disease that had spread.
"Overall, if you look at raw numbers it looks worse but it really reflects the fact that it is diagnosed at later stages, and when men are older. If you look at it look at stage by stage it is the same," Giordano added.
"It's perhaps ironic that tumors in men are easier to feel than they are in women, yet the disease is being discovered at a later stage in men than in women."
One reason is that men and their doctors may assume they are experiencing a common and benign condition called gynecomastia, or enlargement of the breasts, Giordano said.
Breast cancer overall will affect more than 200,000 Americans this year and will kill 40,000, the American Cancer Society (news - web sites) says.