According to the Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa), breast cancer is roughly 100 times less common to occur in men than in women, with the risk of a man getting cancer at about 1 in 794. The risk of a woman developing breast cancer is however 1 in 31.
The high prevalence of women developing breast cancer has developed an assumption that it’s merely a woman’s disease. As a result men delay visiting the doctor for a check-up. This can result in the cancer being at an advanced stage once diagnosed, with chances of survival becoming slim.
What makes it more difficult for men to consider breast cancer as a threat is the fact that many awareness campaigns, both nationally and internationally, rarely mention the risk of breast cancer in men.
Another little known fact is that there are up to five types of breast cancer that men can develop at various stages of their lives.
A family history of breast cancer in men increases the risk of developing breast cancer, as it would in the case of women with the same family history. Male breast cancer is usually fuelled by oestrogen, a hormone found in both men and women.
Typically, men have higher testosterone hormone levels than women, and women have higher oestrogen levels than men. Both hormones are found in men and women.
As men get older, more oestrogen tends to be produced as testosterone levels decrease, increasing chances of breast cancer development. Other factors that can increase oestrogen levels besides age include being overweight, high alcohol intake and taking hormonal medicines.
The best prevention for the disease is awareness. Visit your doctor to know more about your risk of breast cancer, its symptoms and get an accurate diagnosis.