Death Rates For Breast Cancer
According to BreastCancer.org, 2,670 men in the United States are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. While this is less than one percent of women expected to develop breast cancer in the same time frame (268,600), a new study says that the men could be facing death at higher rates. In fact, Men diagnosed with breast cancer are at a greater death risk than women, according to a new study by Vanderbilt.
The study, which was published in JAMA Oncology last month, came about from 10 years’ worth of data. The analyzed data came from the National Cancer Database and included info from January 1, 2004 to December 31, 2014. As for who participated in this data collection, it was 1.8 million women and 16,025 men. Keep in mind, this stark difference in sample size could have affected the info provided by Vanderbilt.
The study found that men diagnosed with breast cancer had higher rates of death as a result of the disease. This was true even after factors like the type of cancer, the type of treatment, and access to care were considered. Within the study’s time frame, 5 years showed this consistent difference in death rate. Within those five years, 19 percent of men were more likely to die than their female peers.
According to Newsweek, 85 percent of male breast cancer cases were ER-positive while only 75 percent of women’s cases were the same. Being ER-positive means that cells grow in response to estrogen, as the American Cancer Society states. These stats mean that men should have had better chances of surviving. But, they didn’t.
“[ER-positive breast cancer] is a cancer type where patients usually fare better because we have a hormonal treatment,” according to Xiao-Ou Shu, senior author of the study. “We have a lot of treatment options for that type of breast cancer. In theory, men should have better outcomes and have lower mortality as women do if the treatment is equally effective.”
But where do we go from here? As Shu states, and as is the usual case, we need more research. In fact, Shu says that there may be an unknown biological difference between ER-positive men with breast cancer and women.
“The bottom line is that we need more studies specifically focused on male breast cancer,” Shu said.
More research is needed to find out why men seem to be dying of breast cancer at higher rates despite being less frequently diagnosed. Are untested factors like drug use a part of the puzzle? We’ll find out in due time as researchers get to the bottom of it all.