Why do men have a higher risk of cancer than women?


Recently a new study published in the journal Cancer found that men are more prone to developing cancer and dying from the disease than women. Even after controlling factors of tobacco, alcohol, diet, physical fitness, and common medical conditions, there is still a sex bias. The study concluded that the difference in cancer rates between men and a woman, even though not well understood, is due to sex-related biological factors.

Further research on this disparity can help pave a path toward better prevention and treatment of males who develop cancer. 

Reasons why men develop more cancer than women

The study published in Cancer is not the first to show this disparity. For example, a 2018 study led by scientists from Dana-Farber found that men have a 20 percent greater risk of a cancer diagnosis than women, adding 150,000 new cancer cases discovered in men each year. In the Dana-Farber study, researchers uncovered a genetic explanation for this difference. Women have an extra copy of specific protective genes within the cells that provide a line of defense from cells growing out of control, like cancer cells, that men don’t have. 

For decades, it’s been documented by scientists and doctors that males get more cancer than females. Moreover, even the prognosis and survival rates for men are worse than in women across various cancers. 

Why would this be the case? One factor is that historically, men have taken up smoking at higher rates than women. Smoking is a predominant risk factor for increasing lung, head and neck, esophageal, and bladder cancers. Another factor regarding sex differences is that men are naturally bigger than women. The more cells a person has, the greater chance of malignancy developing. Even the female hormone, estrogen, has appeared to offer protection from cancer, whereas testosterone, the male sex hormone, may promote cancer growth.

One strong possibility why men are diagnosed more often with cancer and die more frequently of it than women is that men are notorious for avoiding contact with doctors. They often skip annual physicals, are lax about getting immunizations, and wait too long to see a doctor when a disease has become more advanced and harder to treat successfully.

In addition, men engage in riskier lifestyle behaviors such as excessive drinking, gaining weight in the abdominal region, following an unhealthy diet, or working in environments where exposure to carcinogens is more common. 

Ideas on how men can reduce their risk of cancer

While men may not be able to avoid a cancer diagnosis altogether, there are specific steps men can take to make healthy lifestyle changes to help reduce cancer risk:

  • Get an annual physical
  • Get a yearly prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test beginning at age 40, which screens for prostate cancer
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Exercise regularly by engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity to vigorous physical activity
  • Avoid radon exposure which increases lung cancer risk
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Don’t smoke or use other tobacco products
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Stay well-hydrated with water
  • Protect yourself from workplace toxins by wearing protective gear
  • Apply sunscreen year-round, wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, and wear long sleeves and pants when possible
  • Do a skin self-exam each month, and a yearly skin check with a dermatologist
  • Do a monthly testicular self-exam checking for any lumps that might indicate testicular cancer

Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy.  Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.

Why do men have a higher risk of cancer than women?
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Dr. David B. Samadi

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Dr. David B. Samadi