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Breast Cancer in Men: Racial Differences in Treatment and Outcome

Last updated May 7, 2015

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

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A recent study finds that treatment for non-Hispanic black and non-Hispanic white men was remarkably similar when they were diagnosed with early stage breast cancer.


A recent study finds that treatment for non-Hispanic black and non-Hispanic white men was remarkably similar when they were diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. However, the incidence of death in younger black males was 76% higher than white men in the similar age group.

Breast cancer in men is relatively rare. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, “Many people do not realize that men have breast tissue and that they can develop breast cancer.” Although breast cancer occurrence in men is less frequent than in women, about 2350 new cases will likely be reported in the United States in 2015, and about 440 men will die from breast cancer.

It is an established fact that African American men are hit harder by breast cancer than white men. The study being reported here was undertaken to explore the extent of such disparities in early-stage diagnosis and receipt of treatment in both races. For this purpose, the data between 2004-2011, from the National Cancer Center Data Base NCDB) was analyzed in men aged 18-64 and men 65 years of age or older.

735 African American and 5247 white men were diagnosed with early stage breast cancer in the years 2004-2011. The results showed that:

  • Treatment received for breast cancer was similar in African-American and white men, in both young and old groups
  • Older men in both races received less chemotherapy, compared to younger men.
  • The death rates were comparable in the older breast cancer patients in both races.
  • Younger black men had a higher risk of death (76%) than younger white men.
  • This disparity reduced significantly when the data was adjusted for insurance and income.

In the authors’ opinion:

  • The lower risk of death in black men 65 and older may be attributable to uniform Medicare coverage at this age-group and therefore, access to treatment.
  • “The excess risk of death in younger black men was significantly reduced when accounting for differences in insurance and income, underscoring the potential importance of poverty in health disparities.”

The authors conclude that the potential impact of the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” should be studied as this law gets more widely implemented. Such a study would clarify if this law were able to reduce disparities in access to treatment for all men with breast cancer and thus remove hurdles on the path to best possible care.

Written by Mangala Sarkar Ph.D.

Primary Reference:

Sineshaw, H., Freedman, R., Ward, E., Flanders, W., & Jemal, A. (n.d.). Black/White Disparities in Receipt of Treatment and Survival Among Men With Early-Stage Breast Cancer. Journal of Clinical Oncology.

http://jco.ascopubs.org/content/early/2015/04/29/JCO.2014.60.5584.full

Additional References:

What is breast cancer in men? (n.d.). Retrieved May 5, 2015, from http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancerinmen/detailedguide/breast-cancer-in-men-what-is-breast-cancer-in-men

What are the key statistics about breast cancer in men? (n.d.). Retrieved May 5, 2015, from http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancerinmen/detailedguide/breast-cancer-in-men-key-statistics

African American Men Hit Harder by Breast Cancer. (n.d.). Retrieved May 5, 2015, from http://www.breastcancer.org/research-news/20070406b

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: May 7, 2015
Last updated: May 7, 2015