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Irish men are at greater risk of dying from cancer because they avoid crucial check-ups


Kevin O'Hagan

Kevin O'Hagan

Great friends and rivals: Ollie Campbell and Tony Ward at Donnybrook rugby club in 2006

Great friends and rivals: Ollie Campbell and Tony Ward at Donnybrook rugby club in 2006


Kevin O'Hagan

Men are at greater risk of getting cancer than women. Three out of four men will get it while for women the figure is one in four.

There are a number of reasons for this and a lot of them are to do with lifestyle. Men tend to smoke more and they tend to have higher levels of body fat. In middle age they have more sedentary lifestyles and lower levels of physical activity and they drink more alcohol.

Men are sometimes not as comfortable in a health setting. Women are perhaps more used to going to surgeries because they go there with their children.

Men tend to put things off rather than going to the doctor. If they have symptoms and they are not preventing them going about their daily work they tend to ignore it. They decide to give it another night and see if it will go away. There's an element of embarrassment, particularly with cancers such as prostate.

If you look at how we perceive masculinity, men are supposed to be resilient and strong and able to cope with any difficulty.

Fortunately, attitudes are changing. When we have people like Tony Ward coming out and speaking about it, it creates more awareness. A classic sign of prostate cancer is if there is trouble with the flow of urine. Also, if there is blood in the urine that is definitely a symptom that should be checked. Men over the age of 60 should definitely have regular check-ups.

Prostate is the most common cancer followed by bowel and lung. In terms of deaths lung cancer is number one. The survival rates for prostate are now very good at over 90pc. The treatment has improved significantly. With lung cancer, there is still very high mortality.

One of the cancers where behaviour plays a strong part is melanoma skin cancer. On average 463 women get it and 349 men. But the figures show that more men die from it - 85 men to 60 women.

The reason seems to be that women are much more aware of their bodies and their appearance. With men if it is not causing them pain they tend not to get it checked. Men need to recognise their symptoms, and the importance of getting them seen to as early as possible. That is crucial.

Physical activity also plays a huge a role. Inactivity among men increases the risks of colon, lung and prostate cancers.

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In conversation with Kim Bielenberg. Kevin O'Hagan is the Irish Cancer Society's Health Promotion Manager

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