A new study presented at the annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium has reported that men who are diagnosed with breast cancer are more likely than women to die from the disease. The study was designed to compare the incidence and outcomes of male and female breast cancer. Male breast cancer is a rare disease, with an incidence of approximately 0.5% to 1% of that of female breast cancer. Given its scarcity, not many studies have assessed the risk and prognosis of male breast cancer. The study included 569,771 women and 3,615 men diagnosed with breast cancer in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, and Singapore between 1943 to 2007.
The overall rates of breast cancer were found to be 60.2 per 100,000 women and 0.4 per 100,000 men. Women tended to be diagnosed at a younger median age (61.4 years) than men (68.9 years). Among the 203,093 patients with available information on tumor stage, 50% of the women and 47% of men were classified as stage I, whereas 11% of the women and 20% of the men were diagnosed with stage III or stage IV (reflecting the fact that men typically do not perform breast self-examinations or get regular mammograms). The five-year cumulative survival was 66.2% for women and 53.0% for men. The relative risk of death was 24% higher in men than women after controlling for age and time of diagnosis. Men were still found to have an 18% higher relative risk of death compared to women after further adjustment for stage. The authors conclude that male breast cancer patients have later onset and worse prognosis than female patients.