Support Pink Ribbon Day, but don’t forget the men

This coming Monday (22nd October) is Pink Ribbon Day. As everyone would know, it is supporting breast cancer research, which is a good thing. People (ok, women) at my train station sell ribbons for this charity, but I’ve never seen anything at all comparable for any cancer associated with men. Now, I know that there are a small fraction of men who do suffer from breast cancer, but in the main, research and support for “female cancers” like cancer of the breast, cervix, ovary or uterus are discussed and promoted significantly more than for “male cancers” like cancer of the prostate or testis.

In the past, I’d just assumed that this was because these afflictions in women outnumbered the cases in men, and the attention on them was warranted because it was another case of women simply being shafted for being female. Men seem to get things easy, and all these cancers were the universe picking on women again, just like while Viagra was approved quickly in Australia, RU-486 isn’t really available anywhere, or like GST on tampons. However, in this case, the roll of the dice has favoured the women, and it is men whom the universe has picked on. Cases of some male cancers outnumber the females ones. By quite a bit.

Cancer statistics are tracked in a lot of detail in Australia. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare publishes a mountain of stats on cancer, although some stats are available up to only 2003 so far. So, in 2003, while there were 11,889 instances of breast cancer detected, and 2,720 deaths from it, there were 13,526 instances of prostate cancer found, with 2,837 deaths. Not that this is a competition, but instances of prostate cancer were 14% higher than for breast cancer. Why aren’t there guys at my train station selling ribbons for that? The Prostate Cancer Foundation should get a move on.

However, when all of the cases of “female cancers” listed above are totalled-up, they do outnumber the “male cancers”. Specifically, in that year, there were 14,164 instances and 2,854 deaths from “male cancers” and 15,311 instance and 3,956 deaths from “female cancers”. That’s almost 40% more deaths on the women’s team. So, there is a strong case to be made for emphasising “women’s issues” (particular for ovarian cancer, which looks pretty lethal from the stats). However, other types of cancer than breast cancer do need a look-in occasionally!