A surprising new study indicates the rate of men getting both breasts removed has doubled.
Men who have breast cancer are getting both of their breasts removed much more often, even in cases where the other one is healthy, a new study has found.
The study authors found that between 2004 and 2011, the rates of double mastectomies in men — more formally referred to as contralateral prophylactic mastectomies — increased by twofold, jumping from 3 percent in 2004 to 5.6 percent in 2011 for men who had breast cancer, according to a LiveScience report.
Such mastectomies involve the removal of a healthy and unaffected breast after invasive cancer is discovered in the other breast.
But the research team behind the study, which was published in the journal JAMA Surgery this week, says that these men may not need to have that type of mastectomy. They recommend the operation for just a small percentage of men, and the rates are beyond what it should be, said Dr. Ahmedin Jemel of the American Cancer Society, who was the lead author of the study, according to the report.
Also, such mastectomies don’t show any evidence of giving patients a longer life.
To make their findings, the research team examined 6,332 men who had breast cancer in just one breast, with all men undergoing surgery between 2004 and 2011. Of that total, 1,254 men had breast-conserving surgery, while 4,800 had a single-breast mastectomy. The remaining 278 men had the contralateral prophylactic mastectomy.
Those who went the latter route usually tended to be younger, the study found. This pattern was already manifesting itself in the female population, so scientists weren’t surprised to find that men were starting to do it at a greater pace as well, according to the report.
A double mastectomy is recommended for men and women who have what are known as BRCA mutations, but only a small proportion of people who get breast cancer have this type of mutation. Instead, scientists recommend that men talk to their doctors about what route is best for them rather than simply jump at the double mastectomy.
Breast cancer is rare in men, but it does happen. The American Cancer Society estimates that men are 100 times less likely to get breast cancer than women.