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CANCER: WHY DO MEN HAVE A HIGHER RISK?

While statistics vary by country, there is consistent evidence that men are more likely to get cancer, and die from it, compared to women. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, the lifetime probability of developing cancer is relatively the same for men and women, but 53% of all cancer deaths are expected to occur among males.

Both cancer incidence and cancer mortality have been decreasing, but there is still a 2 in 5 chance for Canadians to develop cancer in their lifetime. Mortality rates are affected by access to and outcomes of cancer control activities (e.g., screening, diagnosis, treatment, and follow up) so it’s important for both sexes to mitigate risk factors.

MALE-SPECIFIC FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO CANCER RISK

Why the increased risk for men? The reason for this difference is not clear-cut and many theories abound, such as:

  • Lifestyle factors: Men are more likely than women to encounter carcinogens through cigarette smoking or auto body and factory work. Heavier weight, greater inactivity, and higher alcohol consumption for men were also cited. (However, women are catching up to men in terms of unhealthy lifestyles.)
  • Biologic factors: Higher testosterone levels may promote cell growth. Generally taller height has also been shown to contribute to cancer susceptibility. Other biologic influences that could influence susceptibility to cancer might be related to differences in immune response, as well chromosomal differences.
  • Willingness to seek care: Another factor that has been credited for this disparity is that women typically have frequent contact with health professionals. Men, on the other hand, are less likely to seek medical care unless there is a significant reason for concern, such as pain or other more obvious symptoms. This makes it easier to miss early signs of cancer.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO MITIGATE RISK?

The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the real inequities that exist in gender health – for every ten women that the pandemic has killed, 13 men have died. In 2022 Canadian men live on average, 4.5-5 years shorter than Canadian women. Of the top thirteen causes of death in Canada – including all cancers, cardiovascular disease, accidental and non-accidental trauma, to name a few – men lead women in 12 of the 13 causes.

The top three most diagnosed cancers for men are: lung, colorectal, and prostate. While they each have their own specific risk factors, a diet high in vegetables and fruit and low in fat and red meat can help lower risk for all three cancer types. Maintaining an active lifestyle and healthy weight, quitting smoking, and lowering alcohol consumption can also mitigate risk.

However, it’s also very important to speak to your health care practitioner about your risks and report any changes in your overall health. For more information about Mayfair Diagnostics, please visit our services page.

 

REFERENCES

Canadian Cancer Society (2022) “Cancer statistics at a glance.” www.cancer.ca. Accessed October 25, 2022.

Jackson, S. S., et al. (2022) “Sex disparities in the incidence of 21 cancer types: Quantification of the contribution of risk factors.” Cancer. 2020 Feb; 128(19): 3531–3540. Accessed October 25, 2022.

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