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Health & Medicine for Senior Citizens

Men More Likely to Get Cancer, Die from Cancer than Women

Gender not a major role in cancer survival; driving up the greater frequency of cancer deaths in men is the greater frequency of cancer diagnosis

See the latest cancer estimates from American Cancer Society below news report.

July 13, 2011 - Most of the publicity war on cancer prevention in the U.S. seems to focus on cancer in women, breast cancer in particular, but a new study shows cancer is a much bigger killer of men than women. The main reason that it kills more men than women, is that more men get cancer.

Michael B. Cook, Ph.D., an investigator in the division of cancer epidemiology and genetics at the National Cancer Institute, and colleagues used U.S. vital rates and survival data from the SEER database for 36 cancers by gender and age. They assessed whether cancer mortality rates and cancer survival differed by gender.


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"Men are more likely to die from cancer than women," said Cook. "We found this to be true for a majority of specific types of cancer."

Results showed that the cancers that had the highest male-to-female mortality rate ratios were:
  ● lip cancer (where 5.51 men died compared to 1 female);
  ● larynx (5.37-to-1);
  ● hypopharynx – bottom of the throat (4.47-to-1);
  ● esophagus (4.08-to-1); and
  ● urinary bladder (3.36-to-1).

Cancers with the highest mortality rates also showed greater risk of death in men than women:
  ● lung and bronchus (2.31-to-1);
  ● colon and rectum (1.42-to-1);
  ● pancreas (1.37-to-1);
  ● leukemia (1.75-to-1); and
  ● liver and intrahepatic bile duct (2.23-to-1).

The three cancers that only affect men are penile, prostate and testicular cancers, with prostate cancer being the most common of all cancers in men.

In their analysis of five-year cancer survival, the researchers adjusted for age, year of diagnosis and tumor stage and grade, when this information was available. Cook and his team found that a person's gender did not play a major role in cancer survival.

For many cancers, men have poorer survival than women, but the differences are slight. It is difficult to assign any singular root cause, but influences include differences in behavior of the tumor, cancer screening among people without symptoms, presence of other illnesses and health care seeking behaviors.

"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," said Cook.

"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."

Scientists estimate that as many as 50–75 percent of cancer deaths in the United States are caused by human behaviors such as smoking, poor diet quality, and physical inactivity, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The study was published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

The mission of the American Association for Cancer Research is to prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1907, the AACR is the world's oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research.

Information from American Cancer Society’s Facts & Figures 2011

Estimated New Cancer Cases and Deaths by Sex,
All Cancer Sites, U.S., 2011*


Both Sexes



New Cases








American Cancer Society – Facts & Figures 2011


Cancer Death Rates* by Site and State, US, 2003-2007


All Sites


Colon & Rectum

Lung & Bronchus

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma



United States



























Rates of Cancer Death for Men, by Site - 1930-2007

*Per 100,000, age adjusted to the 2000 US standard population.

Note: Due to changes in ICD coding, numerator information has changed over time. Rates for cancer of the liver, lung and bronchus, and colon and rectum are affected by these changes.

Source: US Mortality Data, 1960 to 2007, US Mortality Volumes, 1930 to 1959, National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
©2011, American Cancer Society, Inc., Surveillance Research

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