Despite the fact that men have higher cancer mortality rates than women, men are less willing to be screened for cancer, according to a study published online on Nov. 8 in the American Journal of Men’s Health.
Citing studies showing that men underutilized preventive healthcare services compared with women in general, Jenna L. Davis, MPH, of the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla., and colleagues wanted to investigate how this gender disparity translated to cancer screening (CS) specifically.
"This study examined beliefs and attitudes held by men and women about cancer screening," said Davis. "Our aim was to gain insight for improving existing cancer health promotion practices. Our findings indicate that there is a need for better health and cancer screening promotion among men."
Researchers conducted a random-dial telephone survey of 1,148 adults from New York City, Baltimore and San Juan, Puerto Rico, using questions from the Cancer Screening Questionnaire. The authors had specific race/ethnic group targets, aiming for a study population with at least 300 participants in each of three groups: African Americans, whites and Puerto Rican Hispanics.
While roughly two-thirds of both women and men believed CS was successful at detecting cancer, there was a large gap between genders in terms of actual use of CS. According to the study results, 41 percent of men had never had a CS in the past compared with only 5 percent of women. The disparity seemed to disappear later in life, as there was no significant difference in CS utilization between men and women ages 60 and older.
The researchers suggested that the screening participation gap between men (who accounted for 35 percent of those surveyed) and women may be related to several factors. For example, more cancer awareness promotions in the media are aimed at women's breast cancer.
The authors also noted that within national government agencies, men's health promotions are lacking. While the National Institutes of Health has an Office of Research on Women's Health, there is no such office for men's health.
Another variable may be that women are more frequent consumers of healthcare and generally have more ongoing or routine visits to their primary care doctors, where they are likely to be screened, than men.
The study concluded that when men are provided with the details of screening procedures such as who conducts the screening and what men have to do, men were slightly more likely to participate in cancer screening than women.
“This study highlights the need to increase awareness and promotion of men’s health, especially with regards to CS and cancer prevention,” wrote the authors. “More precisely, the results indicate that men appear to be both susceptible and ready to respond to CS promotional efforts, creating an opportunity for health professionals to have an impact on cancer survival in men if they proceed to provide men with more explanations and education about CS.”