This is National Men's Health Week and to mark it, a report from the Men's Health Forum is published today showing that men are 40 per cent more likely to die from cancer than women, and they are 16 per cent more likely to get cancer in the first place. When gender-specific cancers such as breast cancer and prostate cancer are excluded as well as lung cancer, the difference is even more marked with men being 70 per cent more likely to die from cancer and 60 per cent more likely to develop it.
Professor David Forman, from the National Cancer Intelligence Network says: “For many of the types of cancer we looked at that affect both sexes, there’s no known biological reason why men should be at a greater risk than women, so we were surprised to see such consistent differences." It's thought that stereotypical male behaviour such as downplaying early symptoms, being reluctant to visit a doctor to ask for advice and not being as health-conscious as women are part of the problem. Men are more likely to turn to the internet for medical advice than visit a doctor, which puts them at risk of getting bad advice and buying dodgy drugs.
The Gender Equality Duty means that all public bodies, including the NHS, are legally required to promote equality of opportuity between men and women when promoting and delivering services. The Men's Health Forum have identified five areas of men's health which they believe the NHS needs to address to provide equality of service - weight management, cancer, smoking, visiting GPs and depression.
I think this demonstrates how differences between men and women can be cultural and learned rather than an essential and innate part of the way we were made. When typically 'male' behaviour turns out to be so damaging, isn't it time to question why guys behave like that and to work to change it. Men get teased for making a fuss about 'man flu', when perhaps they need to be encouraged to take illness seriously and to ask for help.
photo: hospital by boliston