comscoreInfertile Men May Have Much Higher Breast Cancer Risk

Infertile Men May Have Much Higher Breast Cancer Risk

Infertility seems to double the risk of breast cancer in men.
May 25, 2022.

Infertility seems to double the risk of breast cancer in men, according to a British study.

The research was published on May 17, 2022, by the journal Breast Cancer Research. Read “Infertility and risk of breast cancer in men: a national case-control study in England and Wales.”


About male breast cancer

Although breast cancer in men is rare, it does happen. Less than 1% of all breast cancers are diagnosed in men. The American Cancer Society expects about 2,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer to be diagnosed in U.S. men in 2022. 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.

There are fewer cases of breast cancer in men than there are in women, so:

  • there is a lack of information about male breast cancer in general

  • few studies have focused specifically on risk factors for male breast cancer

Still, we know that men diagnosed with Klinefelter syndrome have a much higher-than-average risk of breast cancer. Klinefelter syndrome is a genetic condition in males who are born with an extra copy of the X chromosome. Men with Klinefelter syndrome usually:

  • have smaller-than-average testicles

  • produce little or no sperm, so most of them are infertile

In this study, the researchers wanted to see if infertility was linked to a higher risk of breast cancer in men.


About the study

The researchers interviewed 1,998 men from England and Wales who were diagnosed with breast cancer between 2005 and 2017, as well as 1,597 men who had not been diagnosed with breast cancer. Nearly 70% of the men were ages 60 to 79.

Among the men diagnosed with breast cancer:

  • 34.1% were diagnosed between 2005 and 2009

  • 42.6% were diagnosed between 2010 and 2014

  • 23.3% were diagnosed between 2015 and 2017

  • 92% had invasive breast cancer

  • 8% had DCIS

  • 92.3% had hormone receptor-positive disease

The interview included questions about fertility, infertility, and demographics. The researchers also took a blood or saliva sample from each man in the study.

The researchers found that men who were infertile had twice the risk of breast cancer as men who weren’t infertile.

This increase in risk was statistically significant, which means that it was likely related to infertility and not just due to chance.

When the researchers excluded men with Klinefelter syndrome, they found the same increase in risk for infertile men.

The researchers said the reasons for the link between breast cancer risk and infertility in men wasn’t clear. Male infertility can be caused by a number of factors, including genetics, abnormal anatomy, and sexual function problems. Because the testicles are the main source of testosterone in men, one possible reason for the increase in breast cancer risk could be the hormonal effects of testicular abnormalities.

“These are important findings linking infertility to breast cancer in men,” senior author Michael Jones, MSc, PhD, senior staff scientist in genetics and epidemiology at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, said in a statement. “Our study suggests that infertile men may be twice as likely as those without fertility issues to develop breast cancer. The reasons behind this association are unclear, and there is a need to investigate the fundamental role of male fertility hormones on the risk of breast cancer in men. We hope this could lead to insights into the underlying causes of male, and possibly even female, breast cancer.”


What this means for you

If you’re a man who is infertile, this study offers troubling but important results.

To make sure any breast cancer is detected as early as possible, it makes sense to talk to your doctor about this study and ask if a yearly breast exam makes sense for you. It’s also important to be aware of any symptoms that could indicate breast cancer, including:

  • nipple pain

  • inverted nipple

  • nipple discharge

  • sores on the nipple, areola area, or both

  • enlarged lymph nodes under the arm

Learn more about Male Breast Cancer.

Written by: Jamie DePolo, senior editor

— Last updated on June 16, 2022, 9:26 PM

Reviewed by 1 medical adviser
Brian Wojciechowski, MD
Crozer Health System, Philadelphia area, PA
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