PUBLISHED ON: 1 October 2021

Both trans women and trans men can be affected by breast cancer. We look at breast cancer risk, breast screening and breast awareness.

Breast screening and awareness for transgender people

Can transgender women get breast cancer?

Although there hasn’t been very much research in this area, a study in 2019 suggested that transgender women (people assigned male at birth but who identify and live as women) undergoing hormone treatment have an increased risk of breast cancer compared to cisgender men (people assigned male at birth who identify and live as men).

According to the study carried out by researchers from the University Medical Centre in Amsterdam, trans women were around 47 times more likely to develop breast cancer than cis men.

Over the course of the study, 15 cases of invasive breast cancer (breast cancer that has the potential to spread to other areas of the body) were detected in 2,260 transgender women that the researchers were following. In cisgender men, over the same period of time, only 0.32 cases of breast cancer would be expected to be detected.

This is why scientists suggest transgender women are 47 times more likely to develop breast cancer. However, 15 out of 2,260 is still a very small number of cases.

The study also showed that trans men (people assigned female at birth but who identify and live as men) have a lower breast cancer risk than cis women (people assigned female at birth who identify and live as women).

Trans people and breast screening

Routine breast screening can pick up breast cancer before there are any signs or symptoms. During these screenings, a person will have a test called a mammogram (a breast x-ray) to look for cancer that may be too small to see or feel. The sooner breast cancer is diagnosed, the more successful treatment is likely to be.

In the UK, women aged 50 to 70 are invited for a mammogram every three years as part of a national breast screening programme. 

The NHS breast screening programme offers screening to trans women, and also to trans men who have not had top surgery. However, you’ll only be automatically invited for screening if you are registered as a female with your GP. If you don’t want to be invited for breast screening, you can contact your local screening service to opt out. Find your local breast screening service.

If you wish to change the gender you are registered as with the NHS, you can apply for a new NHS number. Contact your GP for details.

You can find information on GOV.UK about screening for trans and non-binary people.

Being breast and chest aware

Regardless of your gender, it is important to get to know how your breast or chest looks and feels. This will then give you confidence to report anything new or different to the GP.  It’s also important to get to know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.

These include:

  • A lump or swelling in the breast, upper chest or armpit
  • A change to the skin, such as puckering or dimpling
  • A change in the colour of the breast/chest – this may look red or inflamed
  • A nipple change, for example it has become pulled in (inverted)
  • Rash or crusting around the nipple
  • Unusual liquid (discharge) from either nipple
  • Changes in size or shape of the breast/chest

On its own, pain in your breasts is not usually a sign of breast cancer. But look out for pain in your breast/chest or armpit that’s there all or almost all the time.

If you notice a change, even if you feel well, it’s important to visit your GP.

Worried about breast cancer?

If you have any concerns about breast cancer, you can speak to our experts on our free Helpline on 0808 800 6000 or contact them by email.

The LGBTQI+ charity Live Through This also has useful resources for people with cancer.