Gabrielle Hochmann

According to a real man who was actually diagnosed with breast cancer, the breast cancer death rate among men is as high as it is because of societal views of masculinity. Real men don't cry. Real men don't show pain. But ... real men do die!

In 2002, in the United States, there were 1,500 men diagnosed with breast cancer. Every year 400 American men die of the disease. However, because it is relatively uncommon, there have been no large population-based studies conducted to date. Little is therefore known about male breast cancer, its epidemiology, risk factors, or pathology. And, in an unusual turnabout, since there have been no large clinical trials studying breast cancer treatment for men, most men are being treated based on standard care guidelines established for women.

In two retrospective studies led by Dr. Sharon Giordano of the University of Texas and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, a number of possible risk factors have been identified. These include a family history of breast cancer, abnormalities in estrogen and androgen balance, testicular defects or injury, infertility, etc. Five- and ten-year disease-specific survival rates appear to be similar for men and women, but overall survival rates are lower for men.

While research and data certainly have been lacking, Dr. Giordano agrees that the single greatest problem may well be the stigma associated with having what has traditionally been seen as a "woman's" disease. (Ref.: Matias, K.P. "An unexpected finding: Male breast cancer is rare and often overlooked." Oncology, 49(4), April 2004)