Capel St Mary: Horticulturist takes part in study of male breast cancer

A MALE breast cancer patient from Suffolk has taken part in a study that has unearthed vital clues into what causes the disease.

Andrew Tokely, a horticulturist from Capel St Mary, joined the Male Breast Cancer Study after he was diagnosed in 2009.

Scientists conducting the world’s largest study of male breast cancer have identified a gene that raises the risk of developing the disease by half.

They found the causes of the disease may differ between women and men.

Mr Tokely, 47, said: “When I was diagnosed with breast cancer I didn’t even know men could get the disease.

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“Joining the Male Breast Cancer Study was great because it means I’m doing my bit to help find the causes. I’m glad to be a part of this research, which I hope will lead to specific treatments for men in the future.”

Male breast cancer is a rare disease but can be just as lethal as its female counterpart.

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It was already known that faulty BRCA2 genes are involved in around 10% of cases, a much higher proportion than among women.

Changes in the RAD51B gene - which is involved in the repair of damaged DNA - also play a role, according to the new research. They increase the risk of male breast cancer by up to 50%.

Dr Nick Orr, from the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, led the research.

He said: “This study represents a leap forward in our understanding of male breast cancer.

“It shows that while there are similarities with female breast cancer, the causes of the disease can work differently in men. This raises the possibility of different ways to treat the disease specifically for men.”

An international team of scientists screened the genetic code of 823 male breast cancer patients and investigated 447,000 alterations in their DNA.

The study highlighted RAD51B, which when faulty also raises the risk of breast cancer in women. However, different parts of the gene are implicated in men’s and women’s cancers.

Around 350 men in the UK are diagnosed with the disease each year, compared with 48,000 women.

Anthony Swerdlow, co-leader of the Male Breast Cancer Study and Professor of Epidemiology at the Institute of Cancer Research, said: “Male breast cancer is rare, which makes it difficult to study. Through drawing on many hundreds of patients from this country and abroad, we can now start to unravel its causes.

“We will be continuing this research to try to find more genes that raise the risk of male breast cancer, in order to understand better the causes of this disease in men, and in women.”

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