OCTOBER is widely regarded as Breast Cancer Awareness month.

This is an annual international health campaign brought about by many breast cancer charities to raise awareness and fund for research in breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and cure.

Traditionally, the pink ribbon has been used as the symbol of pink October.

Charlotte Haley was the first woman, whose sister, daughter and granddaughter were diagnosed with breast cancer, and she decided to distribute peach-colour ribbons to raise fund for research.

From 1991, the Susan Komen Foundation had handed out the pink ribbons to participants in the New York City charity race for breast cancer survivors.

Although male breast cancer is rare and generally overlooked, in 2009, the male breast cancer advocacy group started the Brandon Greening Foundation.

The charity group established the third week of October as “Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week”.

On Oct 21 each year, both men and women would wear pink to celebrate the lives of the survivors and remembering the deceased as they stand together to fight breast cancer.

Today, we take this opportunity to highlight the disease prevalence of male breast cancer and its association with man boobs.

Dear Dr G,

I am curious whether breast cancer can also affect men.

I am 47 years old and generally a healthy chap.

I recently started a drive to lose weight and had done reasonably well.

My weight dropped from 100kg to 82kg.

The biggest concern I have is that I continue to be troubled by the ugly sights of my man boobs.

Apart from being unsightly, I am also concerned whether this may lead to breast cancer.

Can you tell me why do men have man boobs? What can we do about it?



Gynecomastia (also known as man boobs) is a common disorder of the endocrine system in men, resulting in the increase of size in male breast tissues.

This is physiological in two-thirds of adolescent boys during puberty, and resolved within two years of the onset of puberty.

Gynecomastia also occurs in adults with genetic conditions such as Klinefelter Syndrome, the use of certain medications or metabolic dysfunction resulting in the declined of testosterone production.

Adult breast enlargement is common between the ages of 50 and 80, and is generally known as senile gynecomastia.

Although the emergence of breast tissues in men is generally non-life threatening, it is often the source of psychological distress.

Conservative management of gynecomastia is encouraged in men, as the condition is normally self-limiting and does not respond to medications.

In rare occasions, surgical removal of excess tissues of the breast is carried out, mainly for cosmetic reasons.

Gynecomastia can also be associated with hormone producing cancers such as lung, adrenal and testicular cancers that are known to excrete estrogen, however, the breast tissues itself is not known to progress to breast cancer.

Male breast cancer is rare and estimated to be about 1% of all breast cancers.

It is recorded to affect 2,140 men in the United States and results in 450 deaths annually.

The incidence of breast cancer is also noted to be increasing, typically affecting men in the ages of 60s and 70s.

The most well known risk factor for male breast cancer is genetic mutation of the BRCA gene.

Other causes may include alcohol abuse, ionising radiation and exposure to certain hormones.

High estrogen exposure can occur with the use of certain medications, obesity, liver diseases and family history of female breast cancer in close relatives can contribute to the rise in female hormones.

The survival of male breast cancer is generally worse than females.

This may be due to the gynecomastia masking the cancer, or the lack of awareness resulting in late presentation of the disease.

It is also generally agreed the risk of metastasis of male breast cancer is higher as the distant to cancer infiltration to skin and muscles is smaller due to smaller breast sizes.

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