Men's health

Men 40% more likely to die from cancer

Zone default image Men less likely to visit the doctor, make lifestyle changes

Men are almost 40 per cent more likely than women to die from cancer, according to a report published today.

Moreover, once cancers predominantly found in only men or women are excluded, e.g breast and prostate cancer, the difference increased even more - with men almost 70 percent more likely to die of the disease compared with women.

Lung cancer was excluded from the study as the disease and main risk factor, smoking, is known to be more common in men.

Researchers from Cancer Research UK and the National Cancer Intelligence Network expected to find little difference in survival rates between men and women for cancers such as oesophagus, stomach, colerectal, bladder and liver which affect both men and women equally.

But instead they found that not only were men 70 percent to die from cancer than women, they were also 60 percent more likely to get it.

Professor David Forman, information lead for the NCIN, said:

"For many of the types of cancer we looked at that affect both sexes, there's no known biological reason why men should be at a greater risk than women, so we were surprised to see such consistent differences.

Cancer experts suggested the reasons for this could be twofold. Men are more likely to die from the disease because they were more reluctant to visit GPs, often downplaying important early symptoms.

They are also more likely to either ignore or be unaware of advice on diet and lifestyle changes which can affect their risk of developing cancer.

Professor Forman added:

"After taking out the effect of age, men were significantly more likely than women to die from every one of the specific types of cancer considered and, apart from melanoma, they were also significantly more likely to develop the disease.

"Men have a reputation for having a 'stiff upper lip' and not being as health-conscious as women.

"What we see from this report could be a reflection of this attitude, meaning men are less likely to make lifestyle changes that could reduce their risk of the disease and less likely to go to their doctor with cancer symptoms. Late diagnosis makes most forms of the disease harder to treat."

Professor Alan White, Professor of Men's Health at Leeds Metropolitan University and Chair of the Men's Health Forum, also said:

"The evidence shows that men are generally not aware that, as well as smoking, carrying excess weight around the waist, having a high alcohol intake and a poor diet and their family history all contribute to their increased risk of developing and dying prematurely from cancer, but more research needs to be done before we can be sure exactly why this gender gap exists.

"This report clearly demonstrates that a concerted effort needs to be made into getting the public, the health professionals and the policy makers aware of the risks men are facing. Many of these deaths could be avoided by changes in lifestyle and earlier diagnosis."

The report was released to coincide with National Men's Health Week.

This article was published on Mon 15 June 2009

Image © Andrey Ushakov -

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