The number of men being told they have breast cancer has continuously risen for the last 25 years, say north-east researchers.
A team of scientists from Aberdeen University has found diagnosis rates almost doubled from 0.8 cases per 100,000 men in 1992 to 1.3 cases per 100,000 men in 2017.
They discovered the trend was most notable in the north of Scotland and found it was stronger in rural areas.
Aberdeen University’s study on the official Scottish data also revealed male breast cancer accounted for 0.36% of all breast cancers diagnosed in 1992, rising to 0.65% of all breast cancers in 2017.
Male breast cancer is still relatively rare with around 25 cases diagnosed in Scotland per year, and in the NHS Grampian area 49 men have been told they have the disease in the 25 years up until 2017.
Professor Valerie Speirs from Aberdeen University used publicly available data from the Information Services Division Scotland to monitor the trends over the last two and a half decades.
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She said: “The number of men receiving a breast cancer diagnosis in Scotland has almost doubled in the last 25 years.
“That doesn’t mean it’s large numbers that are affected, but it does mirror data that’s coming out of other countries.
“The USA has also reported a rise and there needs to be an increased appreciation that this is something that can affect both genders.
“In the north and north-east, which are both areas associated with farming, we’ve seen a larger proportion of diagnoses than the rest of Scotland. While we don’t have firm, concrete evidence, we suspect the higher numbers are down to prolonged exposure to chemicals associated with agriculture, including environmental oestrogens and pesticides.
“We need to make men more aware that breast cancer can affect them because currently the discussion is almost entirely female focused.
Dr Kotryna Temcinaite from charity Breast Cancer Now said more research is needed to understand the reasons behind the rise since the early 1990s.
She said: “These important figures illustrate just how much there is still to do to tackle breast cancer in men. With this study showing incidence has risen in Scotland over the last 25 years, research will be crucial to gaining a better understanding of its causes, how it differs to the disease in women and how best to treat it.
“While it’s an interesting pattern that more breast cancers have been diagnosed in men in rural areas of Scotland, more research is needed before we can speculate about any potential causes, particularly given the small numbers of cases involved.”