A study has found that black men have higher rates of all types of breast cancer compared to white men in the United States.
This is different than the rates in women in the United States, where black women have higher rates of triple-negative breast cancer — cancer that is progesterone-receptor-negative, estrogen-receptor-negative, and HER2-negative — but lower rates of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer compared to white women.
The research was published online on Dec. 12, 2019, by the journal JNCI Cancer Spectrum. Read the abstract of “Subtype-specific breast cancer Incidence rates in black versus white men in the United States.”
Male breast cancer
While breast cancer in men is rare, it does happen. Fewer than 1% of all breast cancers are diagnosed in men. In 2019, about 2,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed in men. For men, the lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is about 1 in 833.
Like breast cancer in women, breast cancer in men can be hormone-receptor-positive or hormone-receptor-negative, as well as HER2-positive or HER2-negative.
Because the number of cases of breast cancer in men is relatively small compared to the number of cases in women, there is a lack of information on male breast cancer in general and there have been no studies focused specifically on male breast cancer.
The researchers did this study to see if the racial differences in breast cancer rates in women were the same for men.
About the study
The researchers analyzed information on invasive breast cancer diagnosed in men age 20 and older in the United States between 2010 and 2016 from the SEER database. The SEER database is a large registry of cancer cases from sources throughout the United States maintained by the National Institutes of Health.
The researchers found that 11,990 cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed in men. Of that total:
- 10,069 cases were diagnosed in white men
- 1,921 cases were diagnosed in black men
The researchers analyzed the number of cases in each racial group compared to the total U.S. population for each racial group. The results showed that rates of breast cancer were 52% higher in black men than in white men:
- 2.75 per 100,000 black men were diagnosed with breast cancer
- 1.81 per 100,000 white men were diagnosed with breast cancer
The researchers then did the same analysis for specific types of breast cancer.
Rates of hormone-receptor-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer were:
- 1.81 per 100,000 for black men
- 1.28 per 100,000 for white men
Rates of hormone-receptor-positive, HER2-positive breast cancer were:
- 0.29 per 100,000 for black men
- 0.18 per 100,000 for white men
Rates of triple-negative breast cancer were:
- 0.09 per 100,000 for black men
- 0.04 per 100,000 for white men
Rates of hormone-receptor-negative, HER2-positive breast cancer were:
- 0.03 per 100,000 for black men
- 0.01 per 100,000 for white men
Rates of breast cancer where the type wasn’t known were:
- 0.53 per 100,000 for black men
- 0.30 per 100,000 for white men
“Using nationwide U.S. cancer registry data, we found that black men had considerably higher incidence rates for all breast cancer subtypes defined by [hormone receptor/HER2] status compared to white men,” the researchers wrote. “Reasons for the elevated risk of breast cancer in black men are largely unknown but may involve multitude of risk factors including genetic and nongenetic factors. …Future studies should identify factors contributing to these patterns to further inform prevention strategies.”
What this means for you
Even though breast cancer in men is rare and not much research has been done specifically on male breast cancer, it’s important that men be aware of any signs that might indicate breast cancer.
Talk to your doctor right away about any changes in your breasts, including:
- nipple pain
- inverted nipple
- nipple discharge
- sores on the nipple and/or areola area
- enlarged lymph nodes under the arm
Because many men don’t consider the possibility that they may develop breast cancer, they may wait a year or longer to talk to their doctor after noticing a breast symptom. This means the cancer is diagnosed at a later stage.
For more information, visit the Breastcancer.org pages on Male Breast Cancer.
If you're a man who has been diagnosed with breast cancer and would like to talk with others, join the Breastcancer.org Discussion Board forum Male Breast Cancer.
Written by: Jamie DePolo, senior editor
Reviewed by: Brian Wojciechowski, M.D., medical advisor