Male Relative with Breast Cancer Increases Risk Perception

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Less than 1% of all breast cancers are diagnosed in men. Still, having a first-degree male relative who has been diagnosed with breast cancer increases a person's risk of breast cancer.

A study found that having a male relative diagnosed with breast cancer makes family members more aware of their own increased breast cancer risk, but doesn't make them more likely to do anything about this risk.

In the large National Health Interview Survey Cancer Supplement, 2,429 people reported having a first-degree relative diagnosed with breast cancer; only 21 of these first-degree relatives were male. Still, in six cases, a female first-degree relative also had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

The researchers reported:

  • 61.5% of women who had a male relative diagnosed with breast cancer considered their own breast cancer risk to be higher
  • only 46.5% of women who had one or more female relatives diagnosed with breast cancer thought their own breast cancer risk was higher
  • no one who had a male relative diagnosed with breast cancer discussed the possibility of having genetic testing with a doctor
  • 13% of people who had one or more female relatives diagnosed with breast cancer talked about genetic testing with a doctor
  • no one who had a male relative diagnosed with breast cancer had genetic testing compared to 3% of people who had a female relative diagnosed with breast cancer

Anyone who has a first-degree relative who's been diagnosed with breast cancer might want to consider genetic testing. While only about 10% of breast cancer cases in women are linked to an abnormal breast cancer gene -- BRCA1 or BRCA2 -- up to 40% of male breast cancers are linked to an abnormal gene. Up to 75% of first-degree relatives, both male or female, of a man diagnosed with breast cancer will have an abnormal breast cancer gene.

If you have a first-degree male relative who was diagnosed with breast cancer, consider talking to your doctor about your breast cancer risk and if genetic testing is a good idea for you. Figuring out your risk -- which may include testing to see if you have an abnormal breast cancer -- is necessary to create a breast cancer screening plan that's right for you.

You can learn more on the Breastcancer.org Male Breast Cancer pages.

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