LONDON (Reuters) - British men’s “stiff upper lip” attitude which makes them reluctant to visit their doctors may be behind the fact that they are almost 40 percent more likely than women to die of cancer, according to research on Monday.
Their lifestyles may be to blame for them having a 16 percent greater chance of getting the killer disease in the first place.
The odds are even worse for men when gender-specific cancers like breast or prostate are excluded.
Men were found to be almost 70 percent more likely to die from cancer and over 60 percent more likely to develop the disease, research published by the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) and Cancer Research UK found.
Lung cancer deaths were also excluded in the study because smoking is known to be more common in men.
“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 (skin cancer), they were also significantly more likely to develop the disease,” said David Forman for the NCIN.
The analysis looked at the number of cancer deaths in the UK in 2007 and the number of new cases of cancer to have occurred in 2006, broken down by disease types.
Scientists were surprised by the findings. They expected to find that non-gender specific cancers would strike women and men in an equal way.
Health experts suggested that a possible reason for the difference could be down to men leading more unhealthy lifestyles, playing down symptoms and not visiting the doctor frequently enough.
“Men have a reputation for having a ‘stiff upper lip’ and not being as health-conscious as women,” Forman said.
Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research UK said: “We know that around half of all cancers could be prevented by changes to lifestyle and it’s worrying that this message could be falling on deaf ears for men.
“Importantly, for many cancers, the disease is more likely to be treated successfully if caught early.”
Alan White, Professor of Men’s Health at Leeds Metropolitan University, said men were “generally not aware” that, as well as smoking, being overweight, having a high alcohol intake and a poor diet increased the chance of them dying prematurely from cancer.
However, the experts emphasized that more research needs to be done before they can pinpoint exactly why the gender gap exists.
Reporting by Stefano Ambrogi; Editing by Steve Addison