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Men & Breast Cancer: What You Need to Know
Men & Breast Cancer: What You Need to Know
11 Oct 2021

Breast cancer is often seen as something that only affects women, but men can also get breast cancer. Although there have only been 1% of male cases out of all breast cancer cases, it is still vital to check for signs and symptoms whether you are male or female.

How does breast cancer come about in men?

Genetically speaking, male breasts have breast tissue in the same way that women’s does. However, the physical form changes when men hit puberty. This means both men and women still have a nipple and areola, but men lack the mammary gland ducts that are needed to produce milk. The remaining breast tissue that remains means that it is likely for men to develop breast cancer. 


What are the signs and symptoms?

Men can do the same breast self-examination at home to check for breast cancer. It is recommended that you seek a medical examination should you experience any of these signs or symptoms: 


A painless lump under the nipple or areola

An inverted nipple (A nipple that faces inwards) 

Swelling or redness of breast tissue

A rash around the nipple

Any form of discharge 

Swelling or a lump in the armpit


What can increase your risk of male breast cancer?

There is an array of reasons why a male can develop breast cancer even if it is not a gene that is passed down through families. Anyone can get affected by cancer. Some of the things that can increase a person's risk of breast cancer include but are not limited to:


Age. According to the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), breast cancer is common in men aged 40 to 80 years old.

Family history. 20% of men who have been diagnosed with cancer have a close relative who has also had breast cancer.

Exposure to oestrogen. Taking medication that is oestrogen-related can increase your chances of breast cancer.

Heavy alcohol consumption. An unhealthy diet along with consuming large amounts of alcohol can increase your risk of getting cancer.

Obesity. Obesity does not only place your overall health at risk, but it increases the number of fat cells in the body which in turn convert androgens into oestrogen. The increased level of oestrogen in the body can lead to an increase risk of breast cancer. 


Making changes in your diet and taking on a healthy lifestyle that includes exercising can reduce your risk of getting breast cancer. It is crucial to check your breasts at least once a month and scheduling a doctor's visit should you notice anything unusual to catch the disease while it's early so that you can receive the necessary treatment.

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