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Research Findings

Men hit by ‘inexplicable’ greater cancer risk

Men hit by ‘inexplicable’ greater cancer risk

Men are almost 40 per cent more likely than women to die from cancer, reveals a report published 15 June 2009 by the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) and Cancer Research UK together with the Men’s Health Forum to mark Men’s Health Week.

And they are 16 per cent more likely to develop the disease in the first place.

After excluding breast cancer and cancers specific to one or other sex from the analysis*, the difference is even greater – with men being almost 70 per cent more likely to die from cancer and over 60 per cent more likely to develop the disease.

The researchers then looked at the figures, excluding lung cancer as well, because the disease and its main risk factor, smoking, is known to be more common in men.

They expected to see that, across the broad range of remaining cancer types, men and women were just as likely as each other to die from and get the disease.

But they found that for all of these cancers combined, men were still 70 per cent more likely than women to die from cancer and 60 per cent more likely to get cancer.

Experts suggest that a possible explanation for the differences seen for some types of cancer could be down to stereotypical male behaviour – like down playing important early symptoms and having an unhealthy lifestyle.

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.

“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, 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 remaining cancers were oesophagus, stomach, colorectal, liver, pancreas, malignant melanoma, kidney, bladder, brain and CNS, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma and leukaemia. Breast cancer was also excluded from this analysis as it is very rare in men.

Source: Cancer Research UK media release 15 June 2009


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