Cancer death rates in the UK are more than a third higher in men than in women, a new report says.
The stark contrast between the sexes is revealed in latest survival figures from 2010.
In that year, 202 men per 100,000 died from cancer compared with 147 women per 100,000 - a 35% difference.
When gender-specific diseases, such as prostate and breast cancer, were excluded, men were 67% more likely to die.
AXA’s research found that 79% of people were able to correctly identify breast lumps as a potential indicator of cancer. But a lump or swelling in any part of the body, including the armpit, neck, abdomen, groin or chest area, is worth having checked by a doctor.
Diarrhoea or changes in bowel habits are most likely to be caused by a stomach bug or eating something that disagrees with you. But if you’re noticing changes that have lasted more than a few days, for example if your bowel movements are looser for three weeks or more, or you notice any blood when you’ve been to the toilet, then make an appointment to get it checked out.
A lot of people get mouth ulcers when their immune system is low or they’re stressed. Generally they’re nothing to worry about and, as the lining of the mouth regenerates itself every couple of weeks, shouldn’t last long. But any ulcer that hasn’t healed after three weeks merits attention from your doctor or dentist. The same goes for any sore or spot that lasts for several weeks without healing – get it checked by a doctor.
Many men find it more difficult to pass urine as they get older, needing to go more often or urgently or being unable to go when they need to. These problems are usually caused by an enlarged prostate, which is a common condition that is not in itself cause for concern. But occasionally these symptoms can be a sign of prostate cancer – either way, men experiencing these symptoms should see their GP. Similarly, while urinary tract infections are the most likely cause of women having pain or difficulty passing urine, this should pass relatively quickly. If it doesn’t, then any sudden urges to pass urine or the need to go more often should be discussed with your doctor.
It’s natural for most people’s weight to fluctuate over time. But if you haven’t instigated any changes in your diet or exercise regime and have obviously lost weight, then talk to your doctor. And if you’re experiencing heavy night sweats you should seek medical advice – these don’t always have a sinister cause, and can be brought about by certain infections or medications, but they’re worth checking.
If you’ve coughed up any blood, you should see your doctor, regardless of the amount of blood or frequency. It can be a sign of lung cancer, so needs to be checked out.
Most of us will experience coughs or croaky voices at some point, normally when we’ve had a cold. But as with many other changes to your body, anything that hasn’t gone away after three weeks or so should be investigated.
AXA’s research found women were more likely than men to identify key cancer warning signs, including breast lumps, changes in bowel habits and irregular moles. But for both men and women, ensuring you’re aware of symptoms to keep an eye out for is important. Knowledge is power: understanding what you’re looking for means you can any changes checked out quickly.
AXA’s research found only 6% of men and 3% of women check their bodies daily for anything unusual. But understanding what’s normal for your own body is essential if you’re to spot when anything has changed. If you do notice changes that are persisting for a long time, or causing you pain and discomfort, then see your GP.
A sizeable 61% of people AXA spoke to admitted they’d delayed seeing their doctor when they spotted changes that could be potential flags for cancer. But early detection of any problems can make a huge difference if any treatment is then needed. Similarly, if changes are harmless your doctor will be able to reassure you. Overall, the sooner you go to see your GP, the better.
Liver cancer death rates were twice as high in men, who also faced triple the risk of being killed by oesophageal cancer.
The difference may partly be explained by men developing hard-to-treat cancers such as those affecting the bladder, oesophagus and liver, according to the charity Cancer Research UK which produced the figures.
Each year around 82,500 men in the UK lose their lives to cancer, making it the leading cause of death in the male population.
The findings were presented on Tuesday at the Men's Health Forum conference in London.
Professor Alan White, from Leeds Metropolitan University, chairman of the Forum and co-author of the report, said: "The impact cancer has on younger men is often overlooked, but these are men whose life is cut too short by the disease.
"Our report highlights just how big a problem cancer is and highlights the need to understand the reasons why men are more likely to die of cancer. It's crucial that the NHS leads the way in taking a more proactive approach to prevent men both getting and dying from cancer prematurely.
"The Men's Health Forum is campaigning for a better explanation for these differences and more male-focused cancer prevention work so that fewer men are struck down by cancer."
A second report, presented at the same meeting by Cancer Research UK, showed that smoking remains the largest preventable cause of cancer in men, leading to 36,500 cases of new disease each year.
After smoking, being overweight, drinking alcohol and poor diet are the most important cancer risk factors for men.
Catherine Thomson, Cancer Research UK's head of statistics and an author of both reports, said: "Our work highlights the cancer toll for men across the UK. This needs action and Cancer Research UK is supporting a range of research into men's cancers.
"We're one of the UK's largest funders of research into prostate and testicular cancers and this work is leading to new and better treatments.
"Men can help stack the odds of avoiding cancer in their favour by quitting smoking, cutting down on alcohol and eating plenty of fruit and vegetables."