Breast Cancer Cases Increasing For Males

Reporter: Shannon Samson

New Media Producer: Kerry Corum

Breast cancer and men; the number of cases is growing and doctors are launching new studies to find out why.

His family and his church have always been important to Ken Scherpelz. And a few years ago, he found himself depending on their support even more, when he faced a life-threatening disease.

It started when Ken noticed a small spot on his right breast. "Being a man, I didn't rush off and seek medical treatment because I figured it was, you know, a cyst or a pimple, or just an infection that would go away."

It turns out, Ken had breast cancer. It's rare, only one in 90,000 men get that diagnosis every year. But the number of cases is growing. Recent studies show male breast cancer cases have jumped 26% in the last 25 years.

Dr. Charles Shapiro of Ohio State's James Cancer Hospital sees several male breast cancer patients.

"We don't really know what causes male breast cancer, or why the rates are in fact increasing."

He says it may be that we're finding more cases through better awareness and education.

But Shapiro also says some men, like women, can carry a mutated gene known as BRCA-2 that put them at risk."Six-percent of men who present with breast cancer have BRCA-2 mutations that they inherited from either one of their parents. And that, as genetic mutations go, that's incredibly high."

Shapiro says men with a family history of breast cancer need to pay closer attention to their bodies, because just like women, the sooner it's found, the better your chance of survival. And, as Ken suggests, if you do find something - don't assume it's nothing.

Symptoms of breast cancer in men are similar to signs in women. They include a painless lump or changes in breast or nipple tissue.

Doctors are looking into several possible risk factors like diet and exercise. But one thing is clear, while being overweight increases breast cancer risk in women, Dr. Shapiro says it does not do the same for men.