Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

, Volume 119, Issue 1, pp 185–192 | Cite as

Etiologic factors for male breast cancer in the U.S. Veterans Affairs medical care system database

  • Louise A. BrintonEmail author
  • J. Daniel Carreon
  • Gretchen L. Gierach
  • Katherine A. McGlynn
  • Gloria Gridley


The etiology of male breast cancer is largely unknown, reflecting its relative rarity. Although a number of previous studies have suggested relationships with a variety of medical conditions, the results have largely derived from case–control studies and may reflect recall biases. Within the large U.S. Veterans Affairs computerized medical care system database, we had the opportunity to access 26 million hospital discharge records over the period 1969–1996 and to relate various documented medical conditions to the risk of subsequent male breast cancer. This allowed us to calculate relative risks (RR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for male breast cancer associated with conditions occurring one or more years after initial hospitalization, adjusted for age, race, calendar year, duration of follow-up, and number of hospital visits. Among 4,501,578 men aged 18–100 years, a total of 642 cases of primary male breast cancer were identified (523 among whites, 119 among blacks). Medical conditions that were significantly related to risk were diabetes (RR 1.30, 95% CI 1.05–1.60), obesity (1.98, 1.55–2.54), orchitis/epididymitis (1.84, 1.10–3.08), Klinefelter syndrome (29.64, 12.26–71.68), and gynecomastia (5.86, 3.74–9.17). Additionally, among black patients, cholelithiasis emerged as a significant risk predictor (3.45, 1.59–7.47). Diseases that have previously been related to male breast cancer risk that were not supported by our study results included thyroid diseases, smoking-related conditions, liver cirrhosis, prostatic hyperplasia, and fractures. After adjustment for obesity, the association with diabetes disappeared, but that with gynecomastia persisted. In multivariate models that simultaneously considered all important medical predictors of risk, significant risks were seen for Klinefelter syndrome (16.83, 6.81–41.62), gynecomastia (5.08, 3.21–8.03), obesity (1.91, 1.50–2.44), and orchitis/epididymitis (1.80, 1.08–3.01). These results support previous speculations that male breast cancer is influenced not only by tissue at risk, but also by hormonal and inflammatory factors.


Male breast cancer Medical history Hormonal factors 



This study was supported in part by funds from the intramural program of the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health. We are indebted to Eric Boyd of IMS in Rockville, MD for assistance with computer programming.


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Copyright information

© US Government 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Louise A. Brinton
    • 1
    Email author
  • J. Daniel Carreon
    • 1
  • Gretchen L. Gierach
    • 1
  • Katherine A. McGlynn
    • 1
  • Gloria Gridley
    • 2
  1. 1.Hormonal and Reproductive Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and GeneticsNational Cancer InstituteRockvilleUSA
  2. 2.Biostatistics Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and GeneticsNational Cancer InstituteRockvilleUSA

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