Skip to main content

Cancer Deaths Higher Among Men

Men are more likely to die from cancer than women, a new study says.

For most types of cancer, the results show, men have a higher mortality rate, meaning cancer is killing more men than women. For instance, men are 5.4 times more likely to die from cancer of the larynx, four times more likely to die from cancer of the esophagus , 2.3 times more likely to die from cancer of the lung and bronchus , and 1.4 times more likely to die from colon cancer than women with those diseases, the researchers said.

This gender difference does not mean men are inferior at beating cancer, said study researcher Michael Cook, who researches cancer epidemiology and genetics at the National Cancer Institute. Rather, the difference in mortality is most likely due to a higher rate of cancer in men than women, Cook said.

Researchers should focus on understanding why men are more likely to get cancer, Cook said. For instance, they should decipher whether men are exposed to more carcinogens, or react differently to them than women do, or whether biological factors play a bigger role in the higher risk of death, he said.

The results are published today (July 12) in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Cook and his colleagues analyzed information on U.S. cancer deaths and survival rates from 36 types of cancer between 1977 and 2006.

After adjusting for patients' ages, they found the mortality rates for most cancers were higher in men. This indicates the cancers are killing a larger number of men than women. But when they looked at cancer five-year survival rates that is, how likely patients are to survive for five years after they have been diagnosed with cancer they found the rates were about the same.

"Our research suggests that the main factor driving the greater frequency of cancer deaths in men is the greater frequency of cancer diagnosis, rather than poorer survival once the cancer occurs ," Cook said. "If we can identify the causes of these gender differences in cancer incidence, then we can take preventative actions to reduce the cancer burden in both men and women," he said.

How often men and women are screened for certain cancers might make a difference in the perceived survival rates, Cook said. For instance, if women are screened more often than men, there is a higher chance doctors will identify cancers earlier, when they are less likely to kill. If this is the case, survival rates for women would appear higher compared to men, Cook said.

Pass it on: Men are more likely to die from cancer, probably because they are also more likely to get cancer.

Follow MyHealthNewsDaily staff writer Rachael Rettner on Twitter @RachaelRettner.

Rachael Rettner
Rachael has been with Live Science since 2010. She has a masters degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in molecular biology and a Master of Science in biology from the University of California, San Diego.