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New research highlights male breast cancer

New research published during Breast Cancer Awareness Month analyzes recent progress made in treating the disease in men.
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As National Breast Cancer Awareness Month comes to a close on Oct. 31, new research published this month shines a spotlight on a form of the disease not often discussed: male breast cancer [MBC].

Although no randomized clinical trials focused specifically on MBC have been successfully completed to date, it does comprise 1% of all breast cancer cases. Some experts also believe that the incidence of breast cancer is rising among men.

To examine MBC treatment trends in the U.S., and to help identify factors related to better outcomes for patients, a research team from the Mayo Clinic analyzed information from the National Cancer Database on men diagnosed with stage I-III breast cancer between 2004 and 2014. It included nearly 11,000 patients with MBC, with a median age of 64 at diagnosis.

During that 10-year study period, they found a significant increase in the percentage of men undergoing total mastectomy, as well as prophylactic mastectomy [removal of the other healthy breast in a patient undergoing mastectomy] and the use of radiation in cases of breast conservation. More men are also benefitting from genomic testing on tumors as well as the use of anti-estrogen medications like tamoxifen, which helps to slow or stop tumor growth.

Factors found to be related to better MBC survival from 2004-2014 included living in higher-income areas; having tumors that express the progesterone receptor; and receiving chemotherapy, radiation, and/or anti-estrogen therapy. Some of the factors associated with worse overall survival were older age, high tumor grade and stage, having multiple additional health problems, and undergoing total mastectomy. In general, black men also had worse treatment outcomes than white men.

“Our study highlights unique practice patterns and factors associated with prognosis in MBC, furthering our understanding of [its] treatment and prognosis,” said Dr. Kathryn Ruddy, who led the research. “The racial, economic, and age-related health disparities we found could inform future efforts to optimize outcomes in men with breast cancer.”

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