A new report shows that men are more than one third (35%) more likely to die of cancer in the UK than women, and they are two-thirds (67%) more likely to die from the disease when sex-specific cancers such as prostate, testicular and ovarian cancers are excluded.
The report, produced by Cancer Research UK, the Men’s Health Forum and the National Cancer Intelligence Network, shows that in 2010, the rate per 100,000 deaths from cancer for men in the UK was 202; for women it was 147.
In the UK, where the disease kills around 82,500 every year, more men die from cancer than any other disease.
Released online and presented at the Men’s Health Forum conference in London on Tuesday, the report “Excess Cancer Burden in Men” says:
“In general, men are at significantly greater risk of both developing and dying from nearly all of the common cancers that occur in both sexes (with the exception of breast cancer).”
The report also points out that men under 65, that is of working age, are 58% more likely to die of cancers that affect both sexes than women.
Report co-author Alan White, the world’s first Professor of Men’s Health, and chair of the Men’s Health Forum, says in a statement:
“The impact cancer has on younger men is often overlooked, but these are men whose life is cut too short by the disease.”
White, who campaigns for men’s health and is based at Leeds Metropolitan University, says the report highlights “just how big a problem cancer is”, and why it is important to find out why men are more likely to die of cancer than women.
He says “the Men’s Health Forum is campaigning for a better explanation for these differences and more male-focused cancer prevention work so that fewer men are struck down by cancer.”
“It’s crucial that the NHS leads the way in taking a more proactive approach to prevent men both getting and dying from cancer prematurely,” urges White.
The new report also shows that nearly twice as many men die of liver canceras women, and nearly three times as many die from cancer of the gullet or oesophageal cancer.
Possible Reasons for Differences In Men and Women’s Cancer Rates and Deaths
The authors suggest one reason for the large difference in cancer rates and deaths between men and women could be that men are more often diagnosed with cancers that are harder to treat, such as cancers of the gullet, bladder and liver.
They also note that:
“The social determinants of cancer risk such as socioeconomic status, educational attainment, and living and working conditions, are strongly implicated in increased cancer risk in men.”
There are also a number of other factors that “contribute to the inequality between the sexes”, note the authors. These include “links to infection, lack of physical exercise, differential exposure to the sun, potential differences in symptom awareness, and differences in uptake of screening opportunities”, they add.
One cancer where increased screening appears to be making a difference for UK men is prostate cancer. According to the latest estimates from Cancer Research UK, while rates of prostate cancer diagnoses in the UK are rising, deaths to the disease are falling, a pattern that the charity attributes partly to the fact men are living longer, but also to increased use of the PSA test.
Modifiable Lifestyle Factors
The authors also mention the possibility that men are more likely to get cancers linked to smoking, being overweight, having a poor diet, and excessive alcohol consumption because they are more likely to have lifestyles higher in these risk factors.
Evidence from research suggests more than 40% of the cancers that strike men are preventable through lifestyle changes.
Cancer Research UK has also published a document titled “Men’s Cancer Briefing” that describes the various lifestyle factors that influence a man’s risk of developing cancer.
This shows smoking is the biggest preventable lifestyle factor, responsible for nearly a quarter (23%) of all cancers in men, that is around 36,500 cancers in men in the UK every year.
The next biggest preventable lifestyle factors that cause cancer in men are being overweight, consuming too much alcohol and unhealthy diets.
Catherine Thomson is Cancer Research UK’s head of statistics and co-author of both reports. She urges men to reduce their risk of developing cancer by “quitting smoking, cutting down on alcohol and eating plenty of fruit and vegetables”.