Men and Cancer: Raising the issues

20 July 2022

The European Cancer Organisation (ECO) has published an action report today on Men and Cancer: Raising the issues. The report provides a detailed account of the presentations and contributions shared during the April 2022 ECO Community 365 Roundtable Meeting on Men and Cancer.

The roundtable brought together leaders in men’s health, experts in oncology, patient advocates and others to consider the framework of cancer control as seen through the lens of men’s health. It aimed to raise awareness of the ways in which health and cancer policies and services can more effectively take account of the male experience of cancer and, ultimately, to achieve better cancer outcomes for men across Europe. The issue was also considered in the context of potential opportunities for improvement provided by Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, Horizon Europe’s EU Cancer Mission and other EU and international level health policy agendas and initiatives.

Men bear an excess burden of cancer, in terms of both incidence and mortality. In the EU-27 in 2020, there were 1.44 million cancer cases in men and 1.24 million in women. 705,000 men died from cancer compared to 555,000 women. Excluding breast cancer (which is rare in men) and the sex-specific cancers (such as cervical and prostate cancers), the incidence and mortality rates for all cancers are higher in men except for thyroid and gallbladder cancers.

But this significant inequality is rarely acknowledged or discussed by policy makers or service providers. Consequently, action is rarely taken to address and tackle it. The roundtable aimed to change this. Four key recommendations emerged from the roundtable:

  1. The excess burden of cancer in men must be addressed as part of the effort to address inequalities in cancer outcomes. Gender differences are as relevant and important as those related to income, geography, race, sexuality, age and disability. Cancer in men must be considered alongside cancer in women and there is no binary choice to be made between the genders.

  2. A male-targeted approach can help to change men’s health behaviours and improve their use of services. There is good evidence that, for example, delivering health programmes at football stadia can make a positive difference to weight loss and physical activity. New technologies, such as virtual reality gaming, may have a role. GPs can also take opportunities to discuss cancer prevention and opportunities for early diagnosis when seeing men for other issues.

  3. Prostate cancer programmes should be introduced on a systematic basis. There is now clear evidence supporting risk-stratified screening while reducing the number of unnecessary biopsies and avoiding over-treatment. There is a need for a new European Prostate Cancer Initiative, modelled on the European Breast Cancer Initiative.

  4. Tailored policy responses on men and cancer are required at the European and national levels. These include gender-neutral HPV vaccination programmes in every country, improving health literacy in males from an early age, the development of national men’s health policies (as already exist in Ireland and several other non-European countries) and including gender as a core indicator in cancer and wider health policies.

ECO and its Inequalities Network will now work to translate the roundtable’s recommendations into policy development and advocacy work.

Read the full report here.

Men and Cancer: Raising the issues