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Genotypic and phenotypic analysis of familial male breast cancer shows under representation of the HER2 and basal subtypes in BRCA-associated carcinomas

Siddhartha Deb123*, Nicholas Jene1, kConFab investigators4 and Stephen B Fox134

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Anatomical Pathology, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, East Melbourne, 3002, Australia

2 Victorian Cancer Biobank, Victorian Cancer Council, Carlton, 3053, Australia

3 Department of Pathology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, 3052, Australia

4 Kathleen Cuningham Foundation Consortium for research into Familial Breast Cancer, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, East Melbourne, 3002, Australia

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BMC Cancer 2012, 12:510  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-12-510

Published: 9 November 2012



Male breast cancer (MBC) is an uncommon and relatively uncharacterised disease accounting for <1% of all breast cancers. A significant proportion occurs in families with a history of breast cancer and in particular those carrying BRCA2 mutations. Here we describe clinicopathological features and genomic BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation status in a large cohort of familial MBCs.


Cases (n=60) included 3 BRCA1 and 25 BRCA2 mutation carries, and 32 non-BRCA1/2 (BRCAX) carriers with strong family histories of breast cancer. The cohort was examined with respect to mutation status, clinicopathological parameters including TNM staging, grade, histological subtype and intrinsic phenotype.


Compared to the general population, MBC incidence was higher in all subgroups. In contrast to female breast cancer (FBC) there was greater representation of BRCA2 tumours (41.7% vs 8.3%, p=0.0008) and underrepresentation of BRCA1 tumours (5.0% vs 14.4%, p=0.0001). There was no correlation between mutation status and age of onset, disease specific survival (DSS) or other clincopathological factors. Comparison with sporadic MBC studies showed similar clinicopathological features. Prognostic variables affecting DSS included primary tumour size (p=0.003, HR:4.26 95%CI 1.63-11.11), age (p=0.002, HR:4.09 95%CI 1.65-10.12), lymphovascular (p=0.019, HR:3.25 95%CI 1.21-8.74) and perineural invasion (p=0.027, HR:2.82 95%CI 1.13-7.06). Unlike familial FBC, the histological subtypes seen in familial MBC were more similar to those seen in sporadic MBC with 46 (76.7%) pure invasive ductal carcinoma of no special type (IDC-NST), 2 (3.3%) invasive lobular carcinomas and 4 (6.7%) invasive papillary carcinoma. A further 8 (13.3%) IDC-NST had foci of micropapillary differentiation, with a strong trend for co-occurrence in BRCA2 carriers (p=0.058). Most tumours were of the luminal phenotype (89.7%), with infrequent HER2 (8.6%) and basal (1.7%) phenotype tumours seen.


MBC in BRCA1/2 carriers and BRCAX families is different to females. Unlike FBC, a clear BRCA1 phenotype is not seen but a possible BRCA2 phenotype of micropapillary histological subtype is suggested. Comparison with sporadic MBCs shows this to be a high-risk population making further recruitment and investigation of this cohort of value in further understanding these uncommon tumours.

Male breast cancer; BRCA1; BRCA2; BRCAX; Micropapillary; Familial