Men three times more likely to get cancer due to unhealthy lifestyles
MEN have a poor awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer and tend to only attend doctors when they want to be cured, according to a new report.
Yet they are up to three times more likely to develop some cancers than women and they have a greater chance of dying from the disease.
The great cancer divide between the sexes has been revealed in a new report commissioned by the Irish Cancer Society as part of Men's Health Week.
Lifestyle is at the root of much of the gap due to smoking, drinking, unhealthy diets, high levels of obesity and lack of exercise.
"Men had significantly higher incidence rates of bowel, lung, bladder and stomach cancer ranging from 1.6 to three times the rate of incidence in women," the report said.
Melanoma of the skin is the only cancer that is higher among women but men who develop this form of the disease still have a higher chance of dying from it.
Overall death rates for men are 1.6 to 2.7 times those of women, the report from the Centre for Men's Health at the Institute of Technology Carlow and the National Cancer Registry showed.
Male risk of death from bowel cancer increased over time and was significantly higher than that for females one year after diagnosis. Male survival for lung cancer is "significantly lower" than for women.
Apart from lifestyle, men are left at a health disadvantage due to late diagnosis, often due to their delay in having symptoms checked out by a doctor.
"Lower socio-economic status is also associated with a higher risk of developing a number of cancers," said the findings.
Dr Noel Richardson of the Centre for Men's Health said: "Cancer represents a significant proportion of what is described as 'the burden of ill-health' experienced by Irish men."
The report warned: "Changing lifestyle behaviours remains a very challenging task and, as called for in this report, requires more targeted and gender- specific approaches to achieve better outcomes among those sectors of the population most in need – male and lower socio-economic."
Evidence from bowel screening programmes in other countries points to the fact that men are less likely to take up the opportunity to be screened, even when screening is provided free of charge.
"While sex differences exist in relation to factors such as stage of disease at diagnosis and smoking, survival analysis indicates that, even after adjusting for these factors, men are still at greater risk of death from their cancer," Dr Richardson said.
"Evidence would suggest that women have a biological advantage over men in terms of being more robust in coping with their cancer."
Marathon runner and former 'Operation Transformation' participant Killian Byrne, who tackled his bad lifestyle habits, said many younger men may take good health for granted.
"They may not notice that they have become less active or put on weight until their health becomes a concern," he said.
"It's important that we realise that we are not invincible. Looking after your health is not a sign of weakness but a sign that you are in control. Time spent investing in your health now and making changes will pay dividends when you are older."