As you might imagine, male breast cancer is extremely uncommon as compared to female breast cancer, with an estimated incidence of one case per 100,000 man-years. Thus we see most of the icons used to brand the crusade against the disease pink in color and feminine in form. However, male breast cancer rates are increasing and some researchers suggest that it may be linked to hair loss medications like Propecia.
Millions of men take Finasteride, the active ingredient in Propecia, in order to curb their hair loss due to age or genetics. However, men taking the drug have complained of lowered libido, impotence, and erectile dysfunction that lasts well after they have taken the drug.
How does the erectile dysfunction side effect tie to an increased risk of developing male breast cancer? It stems from the function of Finasteride and how it stops hair loss.
You see, Finasteride is an androgen inhibitor, which shrinks androgen-dependent prostate tissue by inhibiting steroid 5?-reductase, an enzyme that converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the main androgen tied to male-pattern baldness. This helped tremendously in the treatment of prostate cancer as Finasteride is still used in larger doses to reduce prostate size. However, the reduction of testosterone is directly linked to the increase in estrogen production.
According to research published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI), researchers found conditions that result in relative estrogen excess or lack of androgen are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer in both women and men. In fact, they found that there is a subset of men with Klinefelter’s syndrome (affecting 1 in 800 men) who are completely unaware they have the syndrome that have a further 50% greater chance of contracting male breast cancer above that of healthy males.
“As this patient and his physician, we strongly recommend that the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] require that information about the possible association between male breast cancer and [Finasteride] be clearly stated in the manufacturer’s patient information leaflet for prescriptions and in its advertisements,” the report said. “Patients and their physicians need to be better informed about this potential life-threatening risk. Men who take [Finasteride] need to be aware of any changes in their breasts and report these changes immediately to their physicians.”
The results of the study made a clear connection between Propecia (Finasteride) and an increased risk of breast cancer. However, this isn’t the only study that has come to this conclusion.
National Institutes of Health Study
A study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) followed 3,047 men as they patients were split into four groups and given medications. One group received both finasteride and doxazosin (another drug that treats enlarged prostate). Group 2 received finasteride alone. Group 3 received only doxazosin. The final group acted as the placebo group and given a sugar pill.
Amongst the whole group, researchers found four cases of male breast cancer in the groups taking either finasteride or doxazosin. This doesn’t seem significant, but scientifically speaking, this is an incidence rate 200 times higher than that for the general population.
Just like the JNCI study, the authors of the NIH study urged the FDA to update the warning label on Propecia to include the possibility of male breast cancer. However, the FDA has still only categorized the instances as “adverse reactions” and has yet to take the step to concretely warn men of their increased risk of contracting this potentially deadly disease.
Propecia and Male Breast Cancer
Male breast cancer is just as dangerous as breast cancer in females, in fact, perhaps more . The reason why it may be worse is that men are not instructed or trained to check for it. Even those men taking Propecia who are shown to be at higher risk are generally not shown what signs that they should look for even though they are the same signs as women.
Signs of male breast cancer:
Lumps – The most common sign of breast cancer in men is a firm, nonpainful mass located just below the nipple. There may not be other associated symptoms. The average size of breast cancer in men when first discovered is about 2.5 cm in diameter.
Nipple Changes – The cancer may cause skin changes in the area of the nipple. These changes can include ulceration of the skin, puckering or dimpling, redness or scaling of the nipple, or retraction (turning inward) of the nipple. Bloody or opaque discharge from the nipple may also occur. Less than 1% of cases are bilateral (occurring on both sides).
Breast (pectoral) or bone pain – Breast cancer that has spread (metastasized) to the bones may also produce bone pain at the sites of metastases. Advanced breast cancer can also produce symptoms typical of many cancers.
National Propecia Attorneys
Propecia has shown to have many side effects that are long lasting including the Propecia Erectile Dysfunction side effect, which has been the most prevalent, but certainly not the most potentially deadly. If men are not informed of the danger of the Propecia breast cancer side effect, they may find themselves in a potentially life altering situation that far outweighs their need to curtail their hair loss.
If you or a loved one are taking Propecia or any other derivative of Finasteride it is important that you contact legal council that has experience in protecting patients from giant pharmaceutical companies. Call Phillips Law Firm for a consultation on your legal options.