A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided new information about a large cohort of male breast cancer cases collected in the United States between 2007 and 2016.1

“Because breast cancer among men is rare, there are not many comprehensive studies that look at survival differences by race and other factors like age, stage, and geographic region,” said S. Jane Henley, MSPH, an epidemiologist at the CDC and one of the authors of the report.

The report, published in October 2020, looked at a number of metrics for men diagnosed with breast cancer, including survival, ethnicity and stage at diagnosis.

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“I think what was nice about the report was that the report covered 94% of the US population, so almost all of the male breast cancer patients across the country,” said Sharon Giordano, MPH, MD, chair of health services research and professor of breast medical oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. “Most other studies I’ve seen are really a subset of patients across the US. Not many of the other findings about survival, etc, are particularly new, but the survival estimates are useful because the study involved so many patients,” Dr Giordano added.

Male breast cancer accounts for around 1% of all breast cancer diagnoses, but similar to in women, men diagnosed at a later stage of disease have a far worse prognosis than those diagnosed earlier.

“Men are generally diagnosed with breast cancer at more advanced stages, highlighting the need for better education among patients and health care providers about common presenting symptoms of male breast cancer leading to early diagnosis and improved outcomes,” said Ayca Gucalp, MD, assistant attending, breast medicine service, department of medicine, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and assistant professor of medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, both in New York.

The report found that overall, 5-year survival was 84.7% for male breast cancer, but that this varied widely with stage of disease at diagnosis. Males diagnosed with breast cancer at a distant stage had a 5-year survival rate of 25.9%, whereas those diagnosed with localized disease had a 98.7% survival rate.

“When men and women are diagnosed with the same stage of breast cancer, they generally have similar survival outcomes. When male breast cancer is diagnosed early or when it is localized (as highlighted in the CDC report), it is more likely to be cured. Unfortunately, because many men do not realize they can develop breast cancer, they don’t always seek immediate medical attention when they first discover a mass or lump in their chest wall,” said Dr Gucalp.

There were also differences in five-year survival among different races/ethnicities, with Black men having a 5-year survival of 77.6%; white men, 86.0%; and Hispanic men, 82.5%. Men of other ethnicities including non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islanders and non-Hispanic American Indians had a 5-year survival rate of 86.2%.

“The discrepancies in relative survival rates among men diagnosed with breast cancer in relation to race and census region stood out for me, as these data highlight areas of potential improvement in terms of screening, diagnosis, and access to treatment,” said Dr Gucalp.