Male breast cancer in Scotland at record 25 year high

The number of men living in Scotland who have received a breast cancer diagnosis has risen continuously for the last 25 years and in 2017 reached 1.3 cases per 100,000 men.

According to new research from the University of Aberdeen, the incidence of male breast cancer in Scotland has almost doubled from 0.8 cases per 100,000 men in 1992 to 1.3 cases per 100,000 men in 2017.

This rising trend was most pronounced in the North of Scotland, although the trend was also generally stronger in rural areas.

The study, published in The European Journal of Surgical Oncology found that male breast cancer accounted for 0.36% of all breast cancers diagnosed in 1992, rising to 0.65% of all breast cancers in 2017.

This is the first time Scottish data has been analysed in this way, but the increase follows a similar pattern to that seen across the world in countries including the USA where male breast cancer diagnosis is also on the rise. However, male breast cancer is still relatively rare with around 25 cases diagnosed in Scotland per year. 

The study led by Professor Valerie Speirs used publicly available data from the Information Services Division Scotland to monitor trends in the number of men living in Scotland receiving a breast cancer diagnosis.

Professor Speirs explains: “With this type of data, it’s hard to say if this is a real rise or just that men are becoming more aware and presenting with symptoms. Maybe 25 years ago, they would have just ignored it then either died with the disease without even knowing they had it or before it became a bigger problem.

“Plus, we are living longer, and cancer is associated with ageing, so the rise may reflect this.

“Importantly, our findings emphasise the need for a better understanding of male breast cancer.  We need to determine the risk factors of the disease so that improved prevention policies can be applied.  Going forward there may also be a call to design bespoke treatment for men so we can target molecules expressed by male breast cancer.”

 “It goes without saying that with numbers rising it is important to raise awareness in the general public that breast cancer doesn’t just affect women.”