Stefan Glück1,2 MD, PhD and Christine Friedenreich3 PhD
1Professor, Dept. Oncology, Medicine and Pharmacology & Therapeutics Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.
2Senior Leader, Clinical Research Program Medical Oncologist, Tom Baker Cancer Centre, Calgary, AB.
3Research Scientist, Division of Epidemiology, Prevention and Screening, Alberta Cancer Board, Calgary, AB.
In 1996, the most recent year for which complete statistics for Canadian cancer incidence are available, a total of 118 new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed in men.1 This incidence rate is approximately 0.7% of the 16,551 cases diagnosed in women.1 This proportion of male to female breast cancers is typical of western populations, although exceptionally high proportions of male to female breast cancers have been found in countries such as Egypt and Zambia, with studies reporting 6% and 15%, respectively.2,3
In many aspects, the disease has a similar clinical course in both genders. However, because male breast cancer is so rare, it has been very difficult to accumulate knowledge through research, especially through large prospective trials. Many aspects of the diagnosis and treatment of male breast cancer remain controversial and even in the future, clinical research will be difficult.