Men shy away from consultations with doctors and prefer spending sunny weekends sipping beer (or other alcohol), without adequate sun protection. This coupled with many other factors make men more prone to cancer than women.
Cancer is a group of diseases in which abnormal cell growth takes place with the ability to invade or spread to other parts of the body. Not all tumors are cancerous, though. Benign tumors stay confined and do not spread to other parts of the body. Signs and symptoms include presence of a lump, abnormal bleeding, cough, unexplained weight loss, and a change in bowel movements. Over 100 different types of cancers affect humans but, studies have shown that they affect men more than women.
Even after removing certain gender related cancers from the equation namely cancers such as prostate cancer, cervical cancer, breast cancer (which mainly affects women, although men can still get it) and lung cancer, for every 3 male cancer patients there are 2 female cancer patients. Also, accordingly to oncologists, men account for substantially more deaths from cancer, with the death rate 58% higher for men than women. Men are considerably more likely to be diagnosed and die from bowel cancer, melanoma (skin cancer) and lung cancer. These figures are concerning not only for men, but for their families too. But why does this difference exist, and what can we do about it? Although the above mentioned cancers are among the most common, they are also some of the most preventable types.
Around the world, men are more likely than women to smoke, be overweight or obese and drink excessive amounts of alcohol. At least one third of all cancers can be prevented by leading a healthy and active lifestyle. Limiting alcohol consumption, regular exercise, having a balanced diet and not smoking, all reduce a person’s risk of cancer.
Sunlight contains certain amount of carcinogenic (cancer causing) rays. In countries like Australia and New Zealand, it is found that men are 50% more likely to neglect sun protection and get sunburnt on a summer weekend, compared with women.
Another concern pointed by senior oncologists is the low participation of men in Cancer Screening Programs. Early detection of abnormalities found during screening can substantially reduce the impact of bowel cancer. Hence, all eligible men should participate.
Researchers also point fingers at a deeper rooted issue with the male psyche the tendency to hide one’s head in the sand when it comes to matters of health.
Throughout their lives, women have more frequent contact with health professionals for instance, when seeking contraception or during pregnancy, birth and child bearing. This provides opportunities to discuss any suspicious symptoms of cancer, and to pick up information about cancer prevention.
Additionally, women’s magazines are flooded with information about health and cancer awareness. While there are a number of publications focussing on mens' health and fitness, health messages for men have not reached the level of saturation that they have achieved in the female media market.
The causes for the higher risk of liver cancer in men versus women are still not completely deciphered. The best thing to do at the moment is to make required lifestyle changes and get regular checkups by a trained and experienced general practitioner.
There are many reputed hospitals in the country with well established oncology departments. One such is Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, Mumbai which is headed by the Padmashri and Padmabhushan, Dr Suresh Advani, a senior oncologist with an experience of almost four decades in this field.