Introduction of breast cancer in men

Breast cancer is often thought of as a condition that only affects women, but men can also develop it.

However, breast cancer in men is much less common than breast cancer in women, affecting just one in every 100,000 men in England.

The most common symptom of breast cancer in men is a hard, painless lump that the develops on one of the breasts.

Read more about the symptoms of breast cancer in men.

When to see your GP

You should always visit your GP if you notice a lump in your breast, or you have symptoms that affect your nipples, such as retraction or discharge.

While these symptoms are unlikely to be the result of breast cancer, they should be investigated further.

Treating breast cancer in men

In most cases of breast cancer, surgery is used to remove a section of the breast. This is usually followed by a long-term course of hormone therapy using a medication called tamoxifen.

Tamoxifen helps to block the effects of hormones on breast tissue that are known to stimulate the growth of cancerous cells. It should help to prevent the cancer from returning.

In some cases, radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy may be used for the same purpose.

Read more about treating breast cancer in men.


The causes of breast cancer in men are unclear, but a number of risk factors for the condition have been indentified. These include:

  • age – most cases of male breast cancer affect men who are over 70 years of age
  • having a family history of breast cancer (both male or female)
  • obesity – a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more
  • alcohol consumption

Read more about the potential risk factors and possible causes of breast cancer in men.

Who is affected?

It is estimated that around 300 new cases of breast cancer in men are diagnosed each year in England. The average age of diagnosis is 71 years of age.

Rates of breast cancer are slightly higher in Jewish men. This is thought to be due to genetic reasons.


The outlook forbreast cancer in men is less favourable than for breast cancer in women. This is because there is less awareness of the condition, so it often takes longer to diagnose.

Healthcare professionals assess the outlook for cases of cancer by measuring how many people survive for five years following the initial diagnosis. This is known as ‘the five year survival rate’. However, many men who are diagnosed with breast cancer survive for much longer than five years.

The estimated five year survival rate for:

  • stage 1 breast cancer is 75-100%
  • stage 2 to 3 breast cancer is 50-80%,
  • stage 4 breast cancer is 30-60%

Read more about diagnosing breast cancer in men, including how the condition is staged.


Body tissue is made up of groups of cells that perform a specific job, such as protecting the body against infection, producing movement or storing fat.

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