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Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 2016 May;101:119-24. doi: 10.1016/j.critrevonc.2016.02.017. Epub 2016 Feb 27.

Male breast cancer is not congruent with the female disease.

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1
Research Oncology, 3rd Floor Bermondsey Wing, Guy's Hospital, London SE1 9RT, United Kingdom. Electronic address: ian.fentiman@gstt.nhs.uk.

Abstract

It has become customary to extrapolate from the results of treatment trials for female breastcancer and apply them to males with the disease. In the absence of results from national and international randomised trials for male breast cancer (MBC) this appears superficially to be an appropriate response. Closer examination of available data reveals that aspects of the aetiology and treatment of MBC do not fit the simplistic model that men usually have endocrine sensitive tumours which behave like those in postmenopausal women. Most females and males with breast cancer have none of the recognised risk factors, indicating the gaps in our knowledge of the epidemiology of this disease. Several studies have compared epidemiological risk factors for MBC and female breast cancer (FBC) but many have been blighted by small numbers. In comparison with FBC there is a larger proportion of BRCA2 tumours, (occurring in 10% of MBC), and underrepresentation of BRCA1 tumours (found in only 1%), suggesting significant differences in the genetic aetiology of MBC and FBC. Genome-wide association studies in FBC reported single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 12 novel independent loci were consistently associated with disease but for MBC 2 SNPs had a significantly increased risk. Molecular profiles of matched cancers in males and females showed a gender-associated modulation of major processes including energy metabolism, regulation of translation, matrix remodelling and immune recruitment. Immunohistochemistry for kinase inhibitor proteins (KIPs) p27Kip1 and p21Waf1 indicate a significant difference in the immunostaining of tumours from male patients compared with females. MBC is almost always estrogen receptor positive (ER+ve) and so systemic treatment is usually endocrine. With evidence in FBC that aromatase inhibitors are more effective than tamoxifen in the postmenopausal it was seemingly logical that the same would be true for MBC. Results however suggest less efficacy with AIs and an increase in risk of mortality compared to tamoxifen. The overall survival in male breast cancer was significantly better after adjuvant treatment with tamoxifen compared to an aromatase inhibitor. These important biological differences point the way to the development of new therapies for MBC based on differences rather than similarities with FBC.

KEYWORDS:

Endocrine therapy; Epigenetics; Estrogen receptor; Female breast cancer; Genetics; Male breast cancer; Molecular profile; Risk factors

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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