GROWING UP as a man can be tough.

For many, the pressure from their gender peers, their role models and their male relatives to be resilient in the face of all adversity, to always put on a brave face in the harshest of circumstances, defines their whole life.

Men aren’t supposed to cry, they mustn’t buckle under pressure, they should be great at sport, strong in battle, competitive at work - and if it all gets a little too much sometimes, the remedy is to “man up”.

It’s a tragic irony, then, that this machismo is the very stuff that is likely to see them into an early grave.

Why? Because so many men of all ages just can’t bear to bring themselves to visit a doctor, even when they’re suffering painful symptoms.

Men are more likely to die prematurely than women. In fact, on average, more than one in five men die between the ages of 16 and 65, and more than two in five before the age of 75.

Men are more likely to die of circulatory disease and cancer with men making up 75 per cent of all early deaths from coronary heart disease. Men also have a 37 per cent higher risk of dying from cancer and a 67 per cent higher chance of dying from those cancers that affect both men and women.

Those figures were brought into sharp relief last week with new research showing that the men-only disease prostate cancer has overtaken breast cancer to become the third biggest cancer killer in the UK.

According to Prostate Cancer UK, 11,819 men now die from prostate cancer in the UK every year - the equivalent of one man every 45 minutes – compared to 11,442 women who die from breast cancer. Lung cancer and bowel cancer remain the two most common cancers to die from.

The number of women dying from breast cancer has been steadily decreasing since 1999 but that same trend has not occurred with prostate cancer.

Prostate Cancer UK chief executive Angela Culhane said: "The introduction of precision medicine, a screening programme and a weighty research boost has no doubt played an important role in reducing the number of women who die from the disease. With half the investment and half the research it's not surprising that progress in prostate cancer is lagging behind.”

It’s not the lack of research that’s blamed for the alarming increase in deaths from prostate cancer, though. In fact, men diagnosed today are two-and-a-half times more likely to live for 10 years or more than if they were diagnosed in 1990.

The key word there is “diagnosed.” The rise in the number of men dying is put down to an increasing and ageing population – which means, on average, fewer men are coming forward to have their symptoms tested. In simple terms, men are less likely than women to be diagnosed early with cancer and they’re more likely to die – and die younger.

The odds are already stacked against those us living in Yorkshire: according to Yorkshire Cancer Research, the number of people who get cancer in the county is the third highest in the UK and the mortality rate is also higher.

The charity Men’s Health Forum (MHF) – which drew up its Men’s Health Manifesto in conjunction with the NHS, Public Health England, academics, specialists and other charities – believes that general male attitudes to health and lifestyle are a major concern that needs Government action.

It points out that four in every five suicides are by men; it is the biggest cause of death for men under 35 and there has been a sharp increase in the rate among men aged 35-64.

It also says men are more likely than women to: smoke more cigarettes per day and smoke hand-rolled tobacco; eat too much salt; eat too much red and processed meat; eat too little fruit and too few vegetables; drink alcohol and drink at hazardous levels.

MHF chief executive Martin Tod said: “Too often men are still expected to be strong, not to ask for help and never show weakness. When this means they fail to get checked for prostate cancer, or ask for help too late, that delay, in the worst case, could be fatal.”

The charity is calling for more research into men’s health issues, a bigger focus on prevention, programmes targeted around the needs and attitudes of the highest risk men and boys and tailored health awareness and education.

However, it is also calling on men themselves to take more care of their physical and mental health, stop smoking, drink sensibly, be active, watch their weight and get advice and help as soon as they think there might be a problem.

The best way to “man up”, it seems, is to face your fear of looking weak and take the cancer bull by the horns.

* The symptoms for prostate cancer can include: burning or pain during urination; difficulty urinating, or trouble starting and stopping while urinating; more frequent urges to urinate at night; loss of bladder control; decreased flow or velocity of urine stream; and blood in urine. Further info and advice:;;