The male breast
Though boys and girls begin life with similar breast tissue, over time, men do not have the same complex breast growth and development as women. At puberty, high testosterone and low estrogen levels stop breast development in males. Some milk ducts exist in men, but they remain undeveloped. Lobules are most often absent. However, breast problems, including breast cancer, can occur in men.
Breast cancer in men
Breast cancer in men is rare, but it does happen.
In the U.S., about 1 percent of all breast cancer cases occur in men.
Breast cancer risk is much lower in men than in women. The lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000 in U.S. men compared to 1 in 8 for U.S. women.
In 2017, it's estimated that among men in the U.S., there will be:
2,470 new cases of invasive breast cancer (includes new cases of primary breast cancer, but not recurrences of original breast cancers)
460 breast cancer deaths
Rates of breast cancer incidence (new cases) and mortality (death) are much lower among men than among women. Survival rates for men are about the same as for women with the same stage of breast cancer at the time of diagnosis. However, men are often diagnosed at a later stage of breast cancer. Men may be less likely than women to report symptoms, which may lead to delays in diagnosis.
Race and ethnicity
Breast cancer incidence in U.S. men varies by race and ethnicity.
Black men have the highest breast cancer incidence overall. Asian/Pacific Islander men have the lowest.
Black men also have higher breast cancer mortality than white and Hispanic men.
Age at diagnosis
The median age of breast cancer diagnosis for men in the U.S. is 68.
Race and ethnicity
The median age of breast cancer diagnosis for men varies by race and ethnicity.
For example, black men tend to be diagnosed at a younger age than white men.
The median age at diagnosis for black men is 65, compared to 68 for white men.
Warning signs of breast cancer in men
The most common sign of breast cancer in men is a painless lump or thickening in the breast or chest area.
However, any change in the breast or nipple can be a warning sign of breast cancer in men including:
Lump, hard knot or thickening in the breast, chest or underarm area (usually painless, but may be tender)
Change in the size or shape of the breast
Dimpling, puckering or redness of the skin of the breast
Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
Pulling in of the nipple (inverted nipple) or other parts of the breast
Nipple discharge (rare)
These symptoms may also be signs of a benign breast condition.
As men tend to have much less breast tissue compared to women, some of these signs can be easier to notice in men than in women.
Don’t delay seeing a health care provider
Some men may be embarrassed about a change in their breast or chest area and put off seeing a health care provider. This may result in a delay in diagnosis. Survival is highest when breast cancer is found early and treated. If you notice any of these signs or other changes in your breast, chest area or nipple, see a provider right away.