South Africa has the Highest Incidence of Breast Cancer Among Men in the World

Life is unpredictable. What if we paid more attention to ourselves, the things we can’t see and the things that are easy to ignore? Like, Breast Cancer in men. Whilst Breast Cancer in Men is relatively rare, that does not mean that men have immunity when it comes to being diagnosed with the disease. Collective research across all stages of Cancer showed that men are at higher risk of dying from the disease than women.

“Breast Cancer has been stigmatized as a female disease. This is not the truth, everyone has breast tissue and that means that anyone can develop Breast Cancer. Cancer is one of the major killer diseases and has no age restriction.” Says Dr Nasiha Soofie from Roche Diagnostics I Southern Africa. 

According to the Breast Cancer Organisation, less than 1% of all Breast Cancers occur in men and it has been predicted that in 2021, 2,650 men are expected to be diagnosed with the disease, and an estimated 530 men are expected to die from the disease. In South Africa, men diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2017 amounted to a total figure of 194, according to a fact sheet by The Cancer Association in South Africa (CANSA), further broken down as 8 Asian men, 106 Black men, 27 Coloured men, and 54 white men. Men have a 1:926 estimated lifetime risk percentage and Breast Cancer made up 0,49% of all male cancers in South Africa.

The Breast Health Foundation estimates that South Africa has the highest incidence of male Breast Cancer in the world with 1-3% of Breast Cancer cases diagnosed.  In 2018 the number had increased to 400 cases of Breast Cancer in men. It is evident that the number of diagnosed cases is vastly rising and it is clear that a larger focus needs to be placed on self-awareness and diagnostics that can ultimately save lives.

“Any type of Breast Cancer, whether in males or females, is easier to treat before it spreads to the rest of the body and that is why it is imperative for everyone to know the signs and symptoms in order to identify a possible risk.  Should anyone be concerned about possible symptoms or is in need of advice, Roche developed the online Thembi Chatbot, says Dr Nasiha Soofie from Roche Diagnostics in Southern Africa.

Possible symptoms of Breast Cancer in men include:

  • A lump or swelling, which is often (but not always) painless
  • Skin dimpling or puckering
  • Nipple retraction (turning inward)
  • Redness or scaling of the nipple or breast skin
  • Discharge from the nipple
  • 70% of breast cancer is found through self-examination

If during self-examinations, a male takes time to get used to the way his breasts feel and look, he is more likely to identify a potential risk. It is key to check the breast for any differences, which might include a change in the size or shape of the breast, any irregularities in the skin, any changes in the nipple and any lumps in the breast or under the arm.

It is a free and easy way for men to get used to noticing any changes in the breast and we recommend you carry out breast self-examination on a monthly basis and at the same time of the day.

Having one or more symptoms doesn’t mean you have Breast Cancer. Many of these symptoms could be due to something else, however, it is highly recommended that you visit your nearest GP should you spot any of the symptoms.

“Molecular biology knowledge has grown in leaps and bounds, which is leading to important new treatment options for many diseases. We now know, for example, that there can be countless mutations that account for cancer. These advances mean testing can guide doctors in choosing the targeted therapy (or immunotherapy) that is most likely to benefit an individual cancer patient,” says Dr Nasiha Soofie from Roche Diagnostics in Southern Africa.

For more than 50 years Roche has actively contributed to the transformation of the lives of people with Cancer and have developed innovative medicines and diagnostics that help prevent, detect, diagnose, treat and monitor Cancer. Roche strives to transform the lives of people with Cancer along with those who care for them.