The rate of double mastectomy among men with breast cancer increased significantly between 2004 and 2011, reveals a new study published in JAMA Surgery.

A man covering his chest with his handsShare on Pinterest
The number of men with breast cancer opting for double mastectomy is on the rise, according to the new study.

According to the American Cancer Society, many people are unaware men can develop breast cancer, but they account for 1% of all breast cancer cases in the US.

While breast cancer in men is around 100 times less common than in women, a 2012 study from The American Society of Breast Surgeons found men are less likely than women to survive the disease.

Among women with invasive breast cancer in one breast, there has been a significant increase in double mastectomy - the surgical removal of both the cancerous and unaffected breast - rising from 2.2% in 1998 to 11% in 2011.

However, the rise in double mastectomy rates among women with breast cancer has raised concern for many health care professionals.

In May last year, Medical News Today reported on another study published in JAMA Surgery in which researchers cite the procedure as "unnecessary" for most women with breast cancer, stating there is not enough evidence to suggest it is beneficial. A more recent study suggested double mastectomy fails to reduce mortality for women with breast cancer.

For this latest study, Dr. Ahmedin Jemal, vice president of surveillance and health services research at the American Cancer Society, and colleagues set out to investigate whether there has also been a rise in double mastectomy among men with invasive breast cancer.

Increase in double mastectomy 'not limited to women'

The team assessed data from the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR), identifying 6,332 men who were treated for invasive breast cancer in one breast between 2004 and 2011.

The results of the analysis revealed that during this 7-year period, the rate of double mastectomy among the men almost doubled, from 3% in 2004 to 5.6% in 2011 - a relative rise of 86.7%.

Men who were younger, white or who had private medical insurance were most likely to undergo the procedure - the same factors that have been linked to increased likelihood of double mastectomy among women with breast cancer.

Genetic testing, a family history of breast cancer, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and fear of second primary breast cancer have also been associated with double mastectomy among women, but the researchers note that no data were available to determine whether these factors influenced likelihood of the surgery among men.

These findings, however, highlight the need for better communication between doctors and male patients with breast cancer when it comes to making a decision about preventive surgery.

Dr. Jemal says:

"The increase in the rate of this costly, serious procedure with no evidence of survival benefit comes, paradoxically, at a time of greater emphasis on quality and value in cancer care.

Health care providers should be aware that the increase we've seen in removal of the unaffected breast is not limited to women, and doctors should carefully discuss with their male patients the benefits, harms and costs of this surgery to help patients make informed decisions about their treatments."

In October last year, a Spotlight from MNT investigated whether men are the forgotten victims when it comes to breast cancer.