What do men want to know about cancer prevention?

October 23, 2017 10:38 pm Categorised in: , ,
Irish Cancer Society- Malehealth.ie

Findings from the Mechanic study


Over 10,000 Irish men are diagnosed with cancer each year. (1) In 2013, the Irish Cancer Society commissioned a report looking at men and cancer (2).  The report noted that there was a big difference between the number of men and women surviving and dying from cancer. The report also noted that there was a clear need to target Irish men separately on the impact of cancer. It called for more male-specific awareness, programmes and research.


The Irish Cancer Society provides a number of services for people affected by cancer, however we know that the majority of the users of these services are women.



Men’s Health and Literacy


At the same time the OECD Adult Skills Survey shows that 17.9% or about 1 in 6, Irish adults are at or below level 1 on a five level literacy scale. While there was no statistical difference between men and women, adults aged 55 – 65 have the lowest mean score (3). This research also shows that 1 in 4 Irish adults score at or below level 1 for numeracy, which means 1 out of every 4 people in Ireland find it difficult to do the simple maths calculations involved in everyday life, e.g. compare unit costs for items or services.


Literacy and numeracy have a direct impact on employment, career opportunities and progression. But they also have huge implications for people’s health and wellbeing.



Irish Men and Cancer Information


Considering the joint findings of these reports; the Society and the National Adult Literacy Agency decided to undertake research that focused on how the Irish Cancer Society can create cancer prevention information that best suits Irish men and to identify how men would like to receive information on cancer and cancer prevention in the future.


The study found that approximately one-third of those with low health literacy often needed someone to help them to read hospital materials, often had difficulty learning about their medical condition because of difficulty understanding written information, and often needed someone to help them understand health information. Men with low health literacy were significantly more likely to worry a lot about cancer and to feel uncomfortable thinking about cancer than those with high health literacy.





The main barriers to men finding cancer prevention information were that men were mainly passive information seekers, they came across information but didn’t normally actively look for it. There were lots of societal, practical and emotional barriers stopping men from accessing cancer prevention information. These barriers were bigger for men with low literacy levels.



Making Information Better


There were some things that made it easier for men to access cancer prevention information and these included location. Men with low literacy levels like to access health information from their GPs, whereas men with high literacy levels like to access health information online.


There were also a lot of recommendations on how men like information to presented, these included using plain English, plenty of visuals and infographics, positive messaging and use of humour. The findings of the Mechanic study were launched to coincide with Men’s Health Week 2017 and will be used by the Irish Cancer Society to make more Irish men aware of the impact of cancer. For more information, check out https://www.cancer.ie/reduce-your-risk/mens-health


With thanks to Aoife Mc Namara, Irish Cancer Society.




  1. National Cancer Registry of Ireland (NCRI, 2015) Cancer Factsheet Overview & most common cancers. Available at http://www.ncri.ie/sites/ncri/files/factsheets/FACTSHEET_all%20cancers.pdf (Accessed 06/05/2015)
  2. Irish Cancer Society (2013) Report on the excess burden of cancer among men in the Republic of Ireland (full report). Available at http://www.ncri.ie/publications/research-reports/report-excess-burden-cancer-among-men-republic-ireland (Accessed 06/05/2015)
  3. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, 2013) OECD Skills Outlook 2013: First Results from the Survey of Adult Skills. Available at http://skills.oecd.org/OECD_Skills_Outlook_2013.pdf (Accessed 06/05/2015)
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