Double Mastectomies on the Rise—Among Men

Rate has nearly doubled, and researchers are concerned
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 5, 2015 9:38 AM CDT
Double Mastectomies on the Rise—Among Men

Nearly 2,500 men in the United States are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. And Live Science reports researchers are worried too many of them will opt to have both breasts removed in an increasingly popular—yet risky and often unnecessary—procedure. A study of more than 6,000 male breast cancer patients between 2004 and 2011 published in JAMA Surgery shows the percentage of men electing to have a healthy breast removed along with the affected breast has nearly doubled from 3% to 5.6%. Lead researcher Dr. Ahmedin Jemal tells Live Science that percentage is higher than the number of men who actually need the procedure—known as a contralateral prophylactic mastectomy—and there is little proof the operation actually helps people live longer.

The Washington Post reports researchers believe the increase in these types of mastectomies in men—which mirrors a similar increase in women—could be due to improved testing that gives patients more information about their cancer risks. "We have created a culture of breast cancer awareness, and we've created a countercultural response of fear," one scientist tells the Post. "When you do a mastectomy, you reduce fear greatly." Yet, researchers say such aggressive operations can be both expensive and risky, especially when patients may not need them. And the Post reports the number of people electing to have both breasts removed might be even higher today than in 2011 because of the "Angelina effect": the positive response Angelina Jolie got after having a double mastectomy two years ago. (Read more breast cancer stories.)

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