June 11, 2013

Irish men more at risk of getting and dying of cancer than women

The Irish Cancer Society has launched a report on the Excess Burden of Cancer Among Men in the Republic of Ireland to mark Men’s Health Week 2013. The report shows that men are at greater risk of getting cancer and dying from it than women. The Irish Cancer Society commissioned the Centre for Men’s Health, Institute of Technology Carlow and the National Cancer Registry of Ireland to produce the landmark report and it is the first of its kind to look at cancer incidence and mortality from a gender perspective in Ireland.

The full report and an executive summary may be downloaded below.

Among the key findings were:

  • Men had significantly higher incidence rates of colorectal (bowel), lung, bladder and stomach cancer ranging from 1.6 to 3 times the rate of incidence in females. Melanoma of the skin had higher rates in females. 
  • Men had higher mortality rates for all cancers examined, including melanoma of the skin.
  • Even though females were more likely to develop melanoma of the skin, males were more likely to die from the cancer. 
  • Mortality rates in men ranged from 1.6 times to 2.7 times the rate of mortality in females.
  • Male risk of death from colorectal cancer increased over time becoming significantly higher than the female risk of death after one year post diagnosis.
  • Male survival was significantly lower than female survival for lung cancer.

Many of these findings can be explained by lifestyle factors such as traditionally higher rates of tobacco use in men, excess alcohol consumption, unhealthy diets, higher levels of obesity and low levels of physical activity. Other factors including late diagnosis resulting in lower survival chances were also taken into account. Lower socio-economic status is also associated with a higher risk of developing a number of cancers.

Dr. Noel Richardson, director of the Centre for Men’s Health at the Institute of Technology Carlow, said “Cancer represents a significant proportion of what Ireland’s National Men’s Health Policy describes as ‘the burden of ill-health’ experienced by Irish men. Lifestyle factors account for a large proportion of this excess burden and are particularly crucial for men in lower socio-economic groups.

“The publication of today’s report gives a solid evidence base for what action needs to be taken by both policy makers and service providers so they can engage more effectively with all men, to improve health and well-being and to bring down the incidence of cancer and the number of men dying from cancer.” 

Special guest Killian Byrne, marathon runner and former Operation Transformation participant, outlined the importance of encouraging men to take steps to improve their health and well-being based on his own experience. “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. 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.”

The message for older and younger men alike is to know the value of good health, it is in your hands. Get informed about risk factors of cancer, and what you can do to protect your health. Know your body; look out for any unusual changes and to take action. Early detection and treatment can greatly increase your chances of beating cancer.

Donal Buggy, Head of Services at the Irish Cancer Society said “The report provides a broad range of recommendations that offer a blueprint for a more targeted and gender-specific approach to addressing the key findings; particularly in relation to lifestyle changes. The Irish Cancer Society as part of its new strategy Towards a Future Without Cancer 2013 – 2017 is already looking at more innovative and creative ways of engaging with different populations and developing new programmes so that more people become aware of how they can reduce their risk of cancer.

A full copy of this report, as well as an executive summary, may be downloaded below.