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The evidence that this would be effective was very weak but, aware that most floating voters are women, Mrs Thatcher and her advisers pressed ahead regardless.Since then, the screening programme has saved many women.It revealed that among cancers which affect both sexes, men are 60 per cent more likely to develop the disease and 70 per cent more likely to die from it.When all forms of cancer are taken into consideration, men are 16 per cent more likely than women to develop cancer in the first place, and then 40 per cent more likely to die of it if they do.I believe the first step to correct this injustice is to look at more imaginative ways of encouraging men to adopt healthier lifestyles.How are we to persuade men to give up smoking or lose weight - two key ways in which we could improve male cancer statistics?
This week, the charity Cancer Research UK published a report about the different survival rates of the two sexes when it comes to this much-feared disease.It is also right to point out that men are less willing than women to switch to healthy lifestyles.And since half of all cancer cases could be prevented by lifestyle changes, then in some regards men only have themselves to blame for the unequal survival rates. For the fact is that politicians, eager to court the female vote, have long presided over a huge disparity in funding and treatment of female cancer patients at the expense of their male counterparts. I became a consultant in 1979, the same year that Margaret Thatcher introduced a controversial nationwide breast-screening programme.As a cancer specialist for the past 30 years, I found the study depressingly predictable.It has long been clear to me that we men are unfairly discriminated against by an NHS which has unfairly favoured female health matters ahead of the needs of male patients.
I believe we need to look at financial incentives as a possible answer.