Study reveals infertility in males increases the risk of breast cancer

Breast cancer can affect men too.
Rupendra Brahambhatt
Microscopic view of embryonic cell and needleluismmolina/iStock

Infertility in males could be linked to other health issues as well. A study recently published in the journal Breast Cancer Research reveals a strong connection between breast cancer and infertility in males. The study highlights that although breast cancer in males is less common, the chances of breast cancer in infertile men are double compared to males with no fertility issues.

For more than 12 years, a team of researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research in London conducted one of the most extensive studies on male breast cancer patients in England and Wales. During their study, the researchers interviewed about 1,998 breast cancer patients and compared their fertility data with the data from more than 1500 other male subjects who didn’t suffer from the disease. 

The findings from the study revealed several important details:

Breast cancer in men is not a myth but a mystery 

An important point to remember is that breast cancer cases are more common in females, and out of every 100 breast cancer patients in the US, 99 are females. Breast cancer in women is found to be linked to genetic and reproductive factors. The mutations that cause the disease in a female’s body may arise because of inherited genes, aging, exposure to radiation, alcohol intake, and hormonal imbalance. 

However, in the case of men, the disease is rare and often considered a mystery because scientists are still not sure what triggers breast cancer-related genes in males. Highlighting a common misconception about the disease, one of the study's authors, Dr. Michael Jones, said, “Breast cancer is often thought of as something that only affects women, but men can also be diagnosed with the disease.” 

Around 80 men lose their lives every year in the UK due to breast cancer. Whereas in the US, more than 500 male breast cancer patients died in 2017. According to an estimate from the American Cancer Society, more than 2,700 new male breast cancer cases could be reported this year in the US alone. 

Infertility issues in males are directly related to breast cancer

Although the reason for breast cancer in males is not known, in their study, Dr. Jones and his colleagues point out that the risk of breast cancer is higher in males with Klinefelter syndrome. This genetic condition adversely affects testicular growth and sperm production in men. Another finding that surprised the researchers was that the possibility of breast cancer in males decreased with an increased number of children. 

During the study, more men with no children were diagnosed with cancer. This analysis included both married and unmarried subjects, and each subject was checked for his clinical history concerning fertility. Finally, when the researchers compared the fertility-related data of breast cancer patients to 1,597 ordinary men, they concluded that “male infertility is associated with a raised risk of breast cancer in men.”

Interestingly, breast cancer is not the only disease connected with infertility in men. Some previous studies have highlighted that men with fertility issues are more likely to experience diabetes, heart ailments, and renal disorders. 

Dr. Jones believes that their findings linking infertility to breast cancer in men are essential. Upon further research, they can reveal more information about the underlying cause of breast cancer in both males and females. The author said, “our study suggests that infertile men may be twice as likely as those without fertility issues to develop breast cancer. The reasons behind this association are unclear, and there is a need to investigate the fundamental role of male fertility hormones on the risk of breast cancer in men. We hope this could lead to insights into the underlying causes of male, and possibly even female, breast cancer.”

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