Kiss’s Peter Criss: ” You Don’t Need Boobs to get Breast Cancer.”

As we approach the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it seems appropriate to raise awareness about a much rarer form of breast cancer- male breast cancer.

Yes, men do get breast cancer, although much less frequently than women, making up only about 1% of breast cancer cases.  The list of male celebrities is also fairly short.  It includes former U.S. senator Edward Brooke, actor Richard Roundtree of “Shaft” fame, 1960s NFL fullback Ernie Green, and , rock star Peter Criss of Kiss.

Criss recently spoke to Fox 411 about his experience, as he described his role as  artist ambassador for Hard Rock’s Pinktober Campaign for breast cancer awareness:

“As a man, I thought I must have pulled a muscle, and being in spandex and lipstick and high heels most of my life, I’m pretty used to my body. I just felt like something was wrong and I told her (Criss’ wife) so she mentioned it to the doctor. The doctor said if you were my husband I would send you over to New York Presbyterian to see Dr. Switzel.

But that’s a cancer hospital for women. She goes, “Yeah but I think you should go there.” It blew my mind walking into a huge room like this nothing but women, no men, except for their husbands with them. It felt really uncomfortable for me, and it actually scared the pants off of me.”

Ten Things to Know About Breast Cancer in Men

male breast1. Male breast cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the breast.

2. Breast cancer can occur in men. Men at any age may develop breast cancer, but it is usually detected in men between 60 and 70 years of age. Male breast cancer makes up less than 1% of all cases of breast cancer.

3. The following types of breast cancer are found in men:

  • Infiltrating ductal carcinoma: Cancer that has spread beyond the cells lining ducts in the breast. Most men with breast cancer have this type of cancer.
  • Ductal carcinoma in situ: Abnormal cells that are found in the lining of a duct; also called intraductal carcinoma.
  • Inflammatory breast cancer: A type of cancer in which the breast looks red and swollen and feels warm.
  • Paget disease of the nipple: A tumor that has grown from ducts beneath the nipple onto the surface of the nipple.

4.  Radiation exposure, high levels of estrogen, and a family history of breast cancer can increase a man’s risk of breast cancer.

5.  Male breast cancer is sometimes caused by inherited gene mutations.

The genes in cells carry the hereditary information that is received from a person’s parents. Hereditary breast cancer makes up about 5% to 10% of all breast cancer. Some mutated genes related to breast cancer are more common in certain ethnic groups. Men who have a mutated gene related to breast cancer have an increased risk of this disease.

6.  Men with breast cancer usually have lumps that can be felt.

7.  Survival for men with breast cancer is similar to survival for women with breast cancer.

Survival for men with breast cancer is similar to that for women with breast cancer when their stage at diagnosis is the same. Breast cancer in men, however, is often diagnosed at a later stage. Cancer found at a later stage may be less likely to be cured.

8.  The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:

  • The stage of the cancer (whether it is in the breast only or has spread to other places in the body).
  • The type of breast cancer.
  • Estrogen-receptor and progesterone-receptor levels in the tumor tissue.
  • Whether the cancer is also found in the other breast.
  • The patient’s age and general health.

9.  Four types of standard treatment are used to treat men with breast cancer:

10.  Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells. Monoclonal antibody therapy is a type of targeted therapy being studied in the treatment of male breast cancer. One such monoclonal antibody, called Trastuzumab blocks the effects of the growth factor protein HER2.


Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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