'Macho' men at greater risk of dying from cancer

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SCOTTISH men need to drop their macho attitude towards cancer and other diseases, a leading health charity said yesterday.

The warning came after figures showed that Scottish men are nearly twice as likely to die from cancer than their female counterparts.

It is widely accepted by health experts that men in the UK are less likely to seek advice for medical conditions. But with Scottish men 40 per cent more likely to die of cancer than females, campaigners are calling for an end to what they call the "Scottish problem" among the country's male population.

Mark Ward, national co-ordinator of the Men's Health Forum Scotland (MHFS), said that Scottish men do not compare favourably with the rest of the UK or Europe when it comes to considering their health.

"There is a sense of toughness, an idea that they can 'handle it' or the perception that they are impervious to ill health. There is something particular about Scottish men that exacerbates the bad health effects.

Mr Ward said that Scottish men needed to scrap the "stoical" attitude and use the help and advice on offer. He added: "This 'Scottish effect' is something particular to the Scottish male psyche, but it is something that we can change over time."

His message comes ahead of the start of national cancer week on Monday. Professor Alan White, the world's first professor of men's health, presented the shocking disparity in cancer mortality rates between Scottish men and women in a seminar at Leeds Metropolitan University last month.

In the presentation he said men in Scotland are not only more likely to develop and die of those cancers that should affect men and women equally, but they have a 17 per cent higher cancer mortality rate than the UK average.

He revealed that Scotland has the highest overall cancer mortality rate for females in the UK – 16 per cent higher than the British average. Prof White's research also highlighted the links between poverty and cancer mortality rates in Scotland.

When combining all cancers, he found that in the most deprived areas, the incidence of cancer was 40 per cent higher and the mortality rate was 75 per cent higher than the least deprived areas. He said that the only way to change this "dire situation" is to improve information to men as to their risks of developing cancer and what they can do to prevent it.

Jane DeVille-Almond, an expert in men's health, said that it was common knowledge that men in the UK were reluctant to accept help. "The further north you get the more macho men feel they need to be," she said. "As soon as you cross the northern borders the worse the problem gets."

'Diagnosis is not always end of road… there is treatment there'

THE signs are now looking good and I have had a tremendous amount of support from my family, but when I was first diagnosed with prostate cancer I went into a complete state of shock.

My brother died of lung cancer in 2002, and there is no denying that people all too frequently associate cancer with death and assume the worst when they receive a diagnosis.

It is so important for people to realise that it is not always the end of the road and there is help and treatment available, especially if action is taken immediately. You need to be self-motivated to seek help. However, when you go for help there is a web of support available and you are never alone.

I have now been a volunteer with the Prostate Cancer Charity for three years. I decided to give them my support as they were a huge help to me.

I now speak to men who are in a similar position to where I was five years ago. This gives me the opportunity to share with them my first hand experiences and to help raise awareness about prostate cancer.

Although doctors and the medical profession are invaluable, people who have lived through the cancer can also provide a different perspective.

I can discuss the treatment that I undertook as well as looking at how cancer impacts your lifestyle.

I am determined to highlight that being diagnosed is not a death sentence.

It is important, however, that men go to their GP when they first think that there may be something wrong with their health.

I hope that my experiences will help others to come out the other end.

&#149 Tam Hewitt from Sandyhills in Glasgow was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2004. There was no history of prostate cancer in Mr Hewitt's family but he realised that something was wrong when he saw blood in his urine.