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Home > Understanding Breast Cancer > Early Detection & Screening > Breast Cancer Screening Recommendations for Men at Higher Risk Due to an Inherited Gene Mutation or Strong Family History

  


Breast Cancer Screening Recommendations for Men at Higher Risk Due to an Inherited Gene Mutation or Strong Family History

Breast cancer in men is rare, but it does happen (about one percent of all breast cancer cases in the U.S.) [49]. Men have much less breast tissue compared to women and are not routinely screened for breast cancer. Breast cancer screening is only recommended for some men at higher risk due to an inherited gene mutation or a strong family history. For these men, screening may increase the chances that breast cancer is found early, when the chances for survival are highest.

If you have concerns about your risk of breast cancer, talk to your health care provider.

Men at higher risk of breast cancer

Some men may have a higher risk of breast cancer, including those with a [20]:

Learn about BRCA2 and BRCA1 inherited gene mutations and breast cancer risk in men.

Learn about family history of breast cancer and breast cancer risk.

Learn about genetic testing for BRCA2 or BRCA1 mutations.

Breast cancer screening for men at higher risk

Breast cancer screening recommendations for men at higher risk are different from recommendations for women. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommends that men at higher risk for breast cancer [20]:

  • Have a clinical breast exam every six to 12 months, starting at age 35
  • Consider having a mammogram at age 40 (depending on the findings from this first mammogram and the amount of breast tissue, yearly mammograms may be recommended)

Men at higher risk for breast cancer should also be aware of the warning signs of breast cancer.

Warning signs of breast cancer in men 

Any change in the breast (or chest area) or nipple can be a warning sign of breast cancer in men including [62-64]:

  • Lump, hard knot or thickening in the breast (usually painless, but may be tender)
  • 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

Men tend to have much less breast tissue compared to women, so some of these signs can be easier to notice in men than in women. These symptoms may also be signs of a benign (non-cancer) breast condition. If you notice any of these signs or other changes in your breast or nipple, see your health care provider.

Learn about benign breast conditions in men.

BRCA2 inherited gene mutations and the risk of breast cancer in men

BRCA2 (BReast CAncer gene 2) is one of the most well-known genes linked to breast cancer in both men and women. A man can inherit a BRCA2 mutation through either parent. And, a man who has a BRCA2 mutation can pass the mutation on to his children, including both his daughters and sons.

BRCA2 mutations clearly increase the risk of breast cancer in men [65-66]. The lifetime risk of breast cancer is 1 in 1,000 for men in the general population and about 65 in 1,000 for men with a BRCA2 mutation [66-67]. BRCA1 mutations may also increase this risk, but the link is less clear [65].

Even among men who have a BRCA2 mutation, breast cancer is uncommon. Men who carry a BRCA2 mutation have about a seven percent chance of developing breast cancer by age 70 [68]. In comparison, women who carry a BRCA2 mutation have a 40 to 60 percent chance of developing breast cancer by age 70 [69].

Breast cancer in men is more likely than breast cancer in women to be related to an inherited gene mutation. Up to 40 percent of breast cancers in men may be related to BRCA2 mutations, while only five to 10 percent of breast cancers in women are considered to be due to a gene mutation [70]. For this reason, it’s usually recommended that men diagnosed with breast cancer have genetic testing for BRCA2 mutations (learn more about genetic testing).

Other genes are under study for a possible link to breast cancer in men [71].

Learn about genetic testing.

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For a summary of research studies on BRCA1/2 mutations and breast cancer, visit the Breast Cancer Research section.

Find statistics on breast cancer in men.

Learn more about risk factors for breast cancer in men.

Learn about treatment for breast cancer in men.

 

Komen Support Resources 

  • Our breast care helpline 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) provides free, professional support services and help finding local support groups. Our trained and caring staff are available to you and your family Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. EST and from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. PST. 
     
  • Our Message Boards offer online forums to share your thoughts or feelings about subjects related to breast cancer. Our Men Can Get Breast Cancer Too forum offers men a place to share their experiences with other male breast cancer survivors.
 

  

Updated 11/01/13

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