Male vs Female Breast Cancer: What’s the Difference?


Breast cancer can develop in anyone, but it is more common in women than in men. There are differences and similarities in the causes and risk factors for breast cancer in men and women.

Learning the signs and symptoms of breast cancer can help people know when and how to get help. It is also possible for a person to take preventative measures to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer.

This article discusses the similarities and differences between female and male breast cancer. It also examines the causes, symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options.

In addition to skin cancer, breast cancer is the The most common cancer affecting women in the United States.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), women have an average of 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer. They predict that approximately 281,550 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2021.

Breast cancer is much less common in men, who make up about 1% breast cancer diagnoses in the United States Approximately 2,650 men will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in the United States in 2021.

Prevalence based on ethnicity

White women are more likely to develop breast cancer than those of other ethnicities. However, black women are more likely to develop aggressive breast cancer. They are also more likely to die from the disease.

The ACS notes that breast cancer is 100 times less common in white men than in white women. It is 70 times less common in black men than in black women.

Black men have the highest incidence of breast cancer among men.

Based on figures from 2013 to 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and ACS reports the following incidence rates of breast cancer in people of various ethnicities:

There are two reasons why breast cancer is more common in women than in men.

Breast development and anatomy

Most breast cancers start in the milk ducts and lobules, the structures containing the milk-producing glands.

Male and female breast tissue consists of a few ducts under the nipple and areola until puberty. During puberty, females develop increased levels of certain hormones that cause these ducts to grow and form lobules.

Men generally have low levels of these hormones, and as a result, breast tissue does not grow as much. Although male breasts have ducts, they only have a few lobules and are mostly made up of fatty tissue.

Estrogen levels

The more cells divide, the higher the risk of cancer. Breast cells grow and divide in response to the hormone estrogen, which women generally produce more than men. notes that breast cells in women are very active and receptive to estrogen, while breast cells in men are inactive and not exposed to high levels of estrogen.

Health professionals do not fully understand the causes of breast cancer. However, there are known risk factors. Some vary between men and women, and some are split.

Risk factors for men

Risk factors specific to men include:

  • Klinefelter syndrome: Men with this syndrome are born with an extra X chromosome and have higher estrogen levels than other men. As a result, they can develop gynecomastia, which is the growth of breast tissue in men. This syndrome can increase the risk of developing breast cancer by 20 to 60 times.
  • Genetic mutations: mutations in the CHEK2, PTEN, and PALB2 genes can lead to breast cancer in men.
  • Testicular conditions: These include having an undescended testicle, having one or more testicles removed surgically, or having mumps as an adult. Mumps can cause decrease in the size of the testicle.

Risk factors for women

Risk factors specific to women include:

  • Be a woman : Women have a much higher rate of breast cancer than men.
  • Menstrual factors: According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, the onset of menstruation before age 12 and menopause after age 55 are risk factors for breast cancer.
  • Reproductive factors: Giving birth for the first time at an older age or never giving birth increases the risk.
  • Dense breast tissue: The ACS notes that lumps may be more difficult to detect in women than in men, as female breast tissue tends to be denser.

Shared risk factors

While there haven’t been as many studies of breast cancer in men as in women, researchers have identified the most of the time risk factors common to both men and women, including:


According to the ACS, breast cancer rates in women increase with age until the seventh decade. The typical age of diagnosis in women is 62 years. Although rates increase with age in women of all ethnicities, non-Hispanic black women have higher incidence rates than non-Hispanic white women before the age of 40.

Rates of breast cancer in men also increase with age, and men are often diagnosed much later, at age 72 on average.


Hereditary genetic mutations, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, may increase the risk of breast cancer in women and men.

ACS states that men with BRCA2 gene have a lifetime risk of about 6 in 100. Men with the BRCA1 gene have a lifetime risk of 1 in 100.

Females with the BRCA1 Where BRCA2 genes have a 7 in 10 chance of developing breast cancer by the age of 80.

Family history of breast cancer

About 1 in 5 men with breast cancer have a close family member who has had the disease.

The risk of developing breast cancer is about 1.5 times higher in women with a first-degree relative with breast cancer than in those without a family history of the disease. It is 2-4 times higher in women with more than one first-degree relative who had breast cancer.

Other risk factors for breast cancer include:

The CDC states that people may experience different symptoms of breast cancer depending on the person, and some may have no symptoms at all.

Symptoms of breast cancer usually include one or more bumps in the breast area or under the armpit. These lumps usually:

  • occur in a breast
  • appear under or around the nipple
  • feel hard
  • not moving
  • feel bumpy
  • grow over time

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) notes that most breast lumps are not cancerous.

In men, breast lumps can occur due to enlarged male breast tissue, a fatty mass called a lipoma, or a cyst. In women, they can occur as a result of tissue growth called a fibroadenoma or cyst.

Other symptoms of breast cancer include:

If a person notices symptoms of breast cancer, they should see a doctor.

To determine if a person has breast cancer, a doctor will perform an exam and an assessment of symptoms. After the exam, they may order a mammogram and a breast ultrasound.

For a mass that the doctor suspects to be cancerous, he will order a biopsy to confirm.

If the results are positive, a doctor will advise the person on the best treatment plan. Imaging tests such as CT scans and MRIs can help a doctor diagnose the stage of breast cancer and determine if it has spread elsewhere in the body.

Doctors use the same treatment options for female and male breast cancer, including:

Treatment may require a combination of therapies.

While there is no guaranteed way to avoid getting breast cancer, there are ways that a person can reduce their chances of developing the disease.

Prevention begins at home with frequent self-examinations. To perform a breast exam, a person should:

  1. View the breasts in a mirror from all angles. Look for changes in color or texture or lumps that weren’t there before.
  2. Raise your arms and look for the same changes.
  3. Examine the nipples to see if there is a discharge.
  4. Lie down and examine the left breast with the fingers of the right hand. Press in a circular motion on all parts of the chest and armpits, looking for lumps.
  5. Use the fingers of the left hand to examine the right breast in the same way.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5, standing or sitting.

Other prevention methods include:

  • genetic tests for those with a family history of breast cancer
  • exercise to stay in shape and maintain a moderate weight
  • eat a healthy diet that includes more fruits and vegetables

Learn more about reducing the risk of breast cancer here.

A person can contact a doctor at any time to find out more about their risk of developing breast cancer and for prevention advice.

People should also contact a doctor if they notice any symptoms of breast cancer, such as an unusual lump or a change in the shape, feel, or appearance of the breast.

Breast cancer can develop in anyone. However, due to differences in breast development and lifetime estrogen exposure, it is more common in women than in men.

Men and women share certain risk factors that can increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Other risk factors are specific to a person’s gender.

People should contact a healthcare professional if they notice any symptoms of breast cancer.


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