As in a woman’s breast, the duct cells in a man’s breast can undergo cancerous changes fueled by hormones that influence the growth of cells. It is not clear why some men get breast cancer while most do not, but risk factors include a family history of breast cancer, inherited gene mutations, radiation exposure, extended occupational exposure to certain chemicals or intense heat, obesity, liver disease, alcoholism, and other cancer treatments.
All of these factors can influence the level of hormones in a man’s body and potentially spur breast cancer. That said, many men who develop breast cancer do not have any of these risk factors.
Fewer than 1 percent of breast cancers are diagnosed in men, but that is little comfort to the 2,400 men a year who learn they have the disease. For Dr. Bogler, 47, the diagnosis was particularly shocking because his wife had learned five years earlier that she had breast cancer.