My role


The cancer riddle: men twice as likely to die

The MHF has sent a copy of its new report showing that men are nearly twice as likely as women to develop and die from virtually all of the cancers that can affect both sexes to Patricia Hewitt, the Secretary of State for Health, and to Professor Mike Richards, the cancer 'tsar'.

'Tackling the excess incidence of cancer in men', the new report from The Men's Health Forum, Cancerbackup, Macmillan Cancer Support and the Centre for Men's Health at Leeds Metropolitan University, documents an expert symposium held last year to discuss why the incidence of cancer and mortality are so much higher in men than women.

Despite the evidence, policies aimed at preventing cancer in men are failing and are being hampered by misconceptions and a lack of knowledge.

Although there are potential biological explanations for the gap between the sexes with some cancers - such as lifestyles factors, smoking, alcohol use and diet — for other cancers, there is partial or no explanation at all.

It is widely believed that one important explanation for the difference in mortality rates is that man are more likely than women to delay seeking help once they have developed potential cancer symptoms. However, there is limited research on this issue.

Given that the higher rates in men are so fundamental a feature of cancer incidence and mortality, it is unsatisfactory and extremely surprising that the knowledge base is so poor.

Alan White, Professor of Men's Health at Leeds Metropolitan University and chair of the Men's Health Forum, said: 'The issue of men and cancer has been inexplicably neglected in the past. It is extraordinary that no systematic study of men's increased risk of cancer has yet been undertaken. Indeed, no single specific paper on men and cancer is to be found in the literature at all.'

The report calls for an urgent review of the existing evidence about men and cancer and in particular, whether men do delay seeking help and guidance when presented with cancer symptoms.

It says there should be a study of how men understand and respond to the "vocabulary" of cancer with particular attention paid to the need for "male sensitive" communication strategies.

There is also significant scope to extend the range of settings in which men are offered advice, information, routine health checks and even, potentially basic treatment.

Prostate, lung and colo-rectal cancers account for roughly half of all cancers in men. Malignant melanoma is virtually the only cancer where incidence is higher in women than men. Even so, male death rates for melanoma are higher, than female death rates.

The Men's Health Forum, Cancerbackup, Macmillan Cancer support and the Centre for Men's Health at Leeds Metropolitan University are seeking a commitment that there will be a programme of action to tackle the excessive number of men affected by cancer.

Alan White said: 'There are too many unanswered questions at the moment and while this situation continues the health of men will suffer. The expert symposium brought together many of the leading thinkers in the field, I hope our report will now mark a turning point in the quest for more knowledge'.

The Department of Health is currently reviewing its cancer policy through the Cancer Reform Strategy and this will provide an ideal platform in which to address specific men's issues. The new Gender Equity Duty, a law since April 2007, also requires action to tackle gender inequities in health.

Page created on May 23rd, 2007

Page updated on July 26th, 2010