Why does breast cancer research receive more research funding than prostate cancer?

Carcinoma of the prostate

“Men’s Rights Activism” (MRA) is a dirty phrase in many circles.  The MRA movement is a fairly diverse beast ranging from claims of inequality in child custody cases to accusations of full-blown, societal-scale misandry typified by higher death rates in men and lower levels of social investment.  One claim in particular that the MRAs make is that breast cancer (a cancer that predominantly, though not entirely, affects women) receives substantially more money in terms of research funding than prostate cancer, despite similar numbers of people dying from each.  First I’ll review some of the specific claims made, I’ll look at the data on funding, then we can delve into a few stats on the impacts of these two cancer types (bear with me!).  I’ve also included some more detail on whether younger men are more at risk from prostate cancer as an appendix for those who are interested.

The Claims

Here are some verbatim examples of the claims:

The amazing advances that have been made in the treatment of Breast Cancer is stemmed from the amount of funding that the Breast Cancer Research program has received over the decades. The two forms of cancer seem to be as problematic as each other, however Breast Cancer Research receives at least 75% MORE funding than Prostate Cancer Research.

www.mens-rights.net

The number of men who contract prostate cancer is about the same as the number of women getting breast cancer.  The disparity in annual, government research funding between the two cancers is striking and discriminatory, illustrating yet again the institutionalized misandry existing in Western societies, in my opinion.

Ray Blumhorst, National Coalition for Men

This year [2007] 218,890 men in the U.S. will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. By comparison, 178,480 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in women. Not a huge difference, but a new report finds that for every prostate cancer drug on the market, there are seven used to treat breast cancer, and federal spending on breast cancer research outpaces prostate cancer spending by a ratio of nearly two to one.

Business Week, via the National Prostate Cancer Coalition

“…prostate cancer is just as deadly as breast cancer yet receives only a fraction of the funding and that the myth that prostate cancer only affects old men just isn’t true. It’s weird, but new studies show that younger men with certain aggressive forms of the disease are actually more prone to dying quicker.”

– Canadian Association for Equality promotional video

The specifics of the claim vary over time and between countries, but the similarities seem to be:

  1. Prostate cancer research receives less funding than breast cancer.
  2. Prostate cancer affects at least as many men as breast cancer affects women.

It is these claims that I will look at now.

Funding for breast and prostate cancer

There are certainly going to be international variations in the amount of funding given to different cancers.  I have chosen data from the UK and the US because those countries make their data available.  If anybody has a source for other countries, I would be happy to include it as an addendum.  The data for the UK is the expenditure by Cancer Research UK (specifically from this report), the world’s largest independent cancer charity, which (as the name suggests) conducts research on prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.  The US data comes from the http://www.cancer.gov website (specifically here, supplemented with 2011 data from here).

As you can see, there is a substantial difference in the funding of prostate cancer and breast cancer research in both the UK and the US, and this gap doesn’t seem to be closing.  So maybe the MRAs have a point?

Incidence and mortality of prostate and breast cancers in the US

I’m going to look at two variables: incidence (the number of cases) and mortality (the number of deaths).  In each case, the numbers are from the US (because the US cancer stats are mostly easily accessible, from here) and are expressed as the number of cases or deaths per 100,000 population.  As you can see from the data, throughout the 1970s and most of the 1980s there were similar numbers of men suffering and dying from prostate cancer as there were women suffering and dying from breast cancer.  However, in the early 1990s the prostate cancer incidence spikes, along with the number of men dying from prostate cancer.  Following that spike, we see a levelling-out of cases with prostate cancer affecting about 20% more men than breast cancer affects women.  The good news is that the number of people dying from each seems to be falling year on year.  Again, the MRAs seem to be right: there are more cases of prostate cancer and the mortality rate is at least as high as for breast cancer.  So are they right to feel aggrieved?

The problem with the MRA argument is that the statistics hide the details of what is actually going on with the two diseases.  Yes, more men are suffering from prostate cancer, and yes, equal numbers are dying, but who are those men?  We can use the US data to take a closer look.

The following statistics look at the age distribution of the (i) the incidence, (ii) the population-level mortality (i.e. the number of people who are dying), and (iii) the individual-level mortality (i.e. the probability of dying if you contract the disease) for prostate and breast cancer.  The data are all from the same http://www.cancer.gov website that I cited above.  What you can see is that prostate cancer doesn’t affect men until their mid/late 40s (top graph).  Breast cancer, on the other hand, is affecting many more younger women.  Prostate cancer also kills relatively few men under the age of 70.  Bearing in mind that the average life expectancy for men in the US population was 75.9 in 2010 (source), that means that you have to almost reach the average life expectancy before this particular cancer will be much concern.  Note that breast cancer kills many women who are in middle-age (40-60 yrs old, middle graph).  These differences in population level mortality statistics stem from a difference in survival between the two cancers.  If you contract breast cancer at age 25, you have approximately a 10% chance of dying and  by age 50, this chance rises to 15%.  In contrast, mortality rates are very low (<5%) for prostate cancer until men pass 70 years of age.

Is prostate cancer more aggressive in younger men?

You might have noticed that there are two additional claims made in the fourth quote that I presented above, the first of which is “The statement that prostate cancer only affects old men isn’t true” – this is a straw man argument that misses the point.  The data is clear that younger men are affected, but these cases are rare compared to cases of breast cancer in younger women, and the probability of survival is very high.  The second statement, “new studies show that younger men with certain aggressive forms of the disease are actually more prone to dying quicker“, is a more detailed point backed up with actual scientific references so it deserves a closer look.  However, this is a detailed issue so I have put the discussion in an appendix at the foot of this post for those who are interested.  Basically, it seems to be a poorly supported theory that was common in the 1960s.

Summary

A few take home messages:

  • Breast cancer and prostate cancer affect different people, not only in terms of gender but also in terms of age.
  • Breast cancer kills young women and kills mothers while their children are young.  The reason for our fear (and, as a result, our funding) of breast cancer is that it can strike at almost any time and poses a considerable risk when women do suffer from it.
  • Prostate cancer, by and large, kills older men.  While no less of a tragedy, these men have lived long lives and are at greatly increased risk from a range of other ailments (heart disease among them).  The theory of more aggressive prostate cancers in younger (whatever that means) men is poorly supported.
  • The MRA movement cites statistics that do not reveal these important differences.
  • Finally, the priorities of funding agencies are not simply the number of people dying from a particular condition.  The funding landscape is complex, designed around current advances, where the best researchers are located, the best proposals for funding, political will, and a host of other variables.

Now, I am not saying that we should not research prostate cancer.  Indeed, Movember is coming up and I would encourage everyone to contribute or participate (you can also donate to Cancer Research UK).  However, when we have limited resources, we have to make difficult decisions about how to allocate those resources.  In this case, breast cancer has a greater societal impact through greater mortality at younger ages and that is why we can justifiable provide greater funding to breast cancer research.

________________________________________________________________

APPENDIX: Age and prostate cancer

The notes from the video point to the Cancer Research UK website that references these two studies.  First of all, the two studies are from 1994 and 2002, so they are not exactly new.  We’ll take them one by one:

Gronberg et al., 1994 – Gronberg and colleagues don’t demonstrate that prostate cancer is any more aggressive in younger men.  In fact, the article even states in the abstract “This finding does not support the view that tumors appearing in younger patients are more aggressive per se”.  The interpretation of their results that the MRAs adopt stems from a consideration of “loss of life expectancy” as the outcome, rather than death.  When a younger man dies, this is a greater number of potential life years lost than if an older man dies.  In this sense, prostate cancer is worse for younger men but the study said nothing about the disease itself affecting people differently (the survival rate was the same).

Merrill and Bird, 2002 – These authors did actually look at the survival of men in different age groups and did find a difference between ages.  They describe a lower survival in younger and older men, with a peak in survival at intermediate ages.

It is worth, however, putting these two studies into context, since there has been much research conducted since:

  • Freedland et al (2004) found that young men had more favourable outcomes after surgical radical prostatectomy (RP) than older men.
  • Herold et al (1998) found that age of the patients greater than 65 years was a significant predictor of distant metastases at 5 years.
  • Obek et al (1999) suggested that young age per se might be an independent favourable prognostic factor for disease recurrence after surgical radical prostatectomy.
  • Austin and Convery (1993) showed that younger white men survived better than older white men, but that younger black men survived less well than older black men.
  • Konski et al. (2006) show that men age ≤55 years who present with localized prostate cancer do not appear to have a worse prognosis.  They also note that “In the pre-PSA era, younger age was believed to convene a poorer prognosis because it potentially signified more virulent disease”, suggesting that this is in the past.  They cite Merrill and Bird as a study that shows this effect.
  • Hamstra et al. (2011) suggest that older men (defined as >70 years old) have better recovering after radiation therapy than younger men.
  • Wang et al. (2011) show that for a very rare form of prostate cancer (signet ring prostate carcinoma) there is lower survival in younger men.
  • Lin et al. (2009) find that younger men were more likely to… have better overall and equivalent cancer-specific survival at 10 years compared with older men.  However, they also note that high grade and locally advanced prostate cancer was associated with a worse prognosis in younger vs older men.  They cite a wide range of studies demonstrating that recovery is more likely and treatment complications are reduced in younger men.  They also raise the problem of defining “young” in the case of prostate cancer studies, since this can mean anything from less than 50 years to less than 60 years depending upon the study.  Neither of these corresponds to “young” in common parlance…

In summary, the picture is far from clear and most studies seem to suggest that younger men have a better prognosis than older men.  The example cited in the MRA literature (Merrill and Bird, 2002) appears to be the only convincing result in favour of their hypothesis, while many other studies contradict that result.  Also, the lack of a consistent definition of “young” (whatever is used in the studies tends to be considerably older than what most people would consider “young”) makes these studies difficult to interpret.

References

Austin JP, Convery K (1993) Age-race interaction in prostatic adenocarcinoma treated with external beam irradiation.  Am J Clin Oncol. 16(2):140-5.

Konski, A., Eisenberg, D., Horwitz, E., Hanlon, A., Pollack, A. and Hanks, G. (2006), Does age matter in the selection of treatment for men with early-stage prostate cancer?. Cancer, 106: 2598–2602.

Freedland SJ, Presti JC Jr, Kane CJ, Aronson WJ, Terris MK, Dorey F, Amling CL, SEARCH Database Study Group. (2004) Do younger men have better biochemical outcomes after radical prostatectomy? Urology, 63(3):518-22.

Gronberg, H., et al., Patient age as a prognostic factor in prostate cancer. J Urol, 1994. 152(3): p. 892-5.

Hamstra D.A. et al. (2011) Older Age Predicts Decreased Metastasis and Prostate Cancer-Specific Death for Men Treated With Radiation Therapy: Meta-Analysis of Radiation Therapy Oncology Group Trials, International Journal of Radiation Oncology * Biology * Physics, 81,(5): 1293-1301.

Herold DM, Hanlon AL, Movsas B, Hanks GE (1998) Age-related prostate cancer metastases. Urology,  51(6):985-90.

Lin, D. W., Porter, M. and Montgomery, B. (2009), Treatment and survival outcomes in young men diagnosed with prostate cancer. Cancer, 115: 2863–2871.

Merrill, R.M. and J.S. Bird, Effect of young age on prostate cancer survival: a population-based assessment (United States). Cancer Causes Control, 2002. 13(5): p. 435-43.

Obek C, Lai S, Sadek S, Civantos F, Soloway MS (1999) Age as a prognostic factor for disease recurrence after radical prostatectomy. Urology. 54(3):533-8.

Wang, J., Wang, F.W., and Hemstreet, III, G.P., (2011) Younger Age Is an Independent Predictor for Poor Survival in Patients with Signet Ring Prostate Carcinoma, Prostate Cancer, vol. 2011, Article ID 216169.

Prostate photo by Netha Hussain.  Graphs are all mine based on data cited.

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76 thoughts on “Why does breast cancer research receive more research funding than prostate cancer?

  1. Is there any easy way of expressing those mortality numbers in terms of “total years of life lost”? (I don’t know how epidemiologists choose their stats, but that’s one I’ve seen).

    • Good question. The answer is yes and it goes like this: “potential years life lost” (PYLL) often takes 75 years as a baseline for these analyses. However, we know that life expectancy is 75.9 in US males and 80.7 in US females (as of 2009). Using these as the baseline and making some simplifying assumptions about the age brackets in the data (we don’t know what the distribution of people dying between the ages of 60 and 64, for example) we can make some calculations: prostate cancer causes PYLL[75.9]=1788 per 100,000 population, while breast cancer causes PYLL[80.7]=7967 per 100,000 population.

      We can also calculate “average years life lost” (AYLL) and express this as a percentage of the life expectancy which has been done for a range of cancer sites (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2361853/). This which shows that breast cancer causes an average loss of 15.5% of a sufferer’s lifespan compared to prostate causing a loss of 5.5%. Whichever of these two statistics we use, they both make the case that breast cancer is more worthy of research because it robs more people of more of their lives.

  2. I have heard claims that the money donated to Breast Cancer societies translates into a comparably small amount of research dollars (i.e., a relatively high amount goes into overhead and advertising). Do you know if there is any truth to this? And if so, is there any way of comparing the amount of “research dollars” obtained for each cancer?

      • Shame is your article is just as wrong just as one sided as mra. The premise that either disease is worse or deserves this or that is the problem with humans. You wrote this article to show men are bad. Look at every commercial on tv, men are made to look stupid helpless while woman are made to look mean and short tempered. That sad fact is when you look at stats from an even position both cancer kill period. I always wonder how woman like you raise a male child. Do you care that men are told to suffer in silence. There are no tv shows or pep rally no one telling us it’s ok to die with dignity. That is the sad fact both sides miss. I could go on but it won’t change anything you will see me as a man then not listen. Look at the stats evenly not with an agenda. Look at how child support destroys good men and rewards bad woman. Sure it helps some and those are the ones we want to show a fake feel good world but it’s not reality. Look at child molesters new research shows a 51 to 49 % number of men to woman molest children and yet only men are made to be villains. Like I said I could go on but whats the point I know you already checked out as soon as I gave info that doesn’t fit the feminist narrative. Just like the wage gap myth, and you know it’s a myth especially when it comes to wage earners under 250,000 dollars. The sad fact is the despairity is at the top where come on be honest it just really doesn’t matter. Not in a way folks try to show it, the single mom leaving in a run down apartment as big bad men all drive BMW. Such bull. Fact is a single father make 50k struggles just as bad as a single mom. So we take from men and turn them into paychecks not fathers. But go on with you I am woman hear me roar no matter how much the divide grows.


        EDIT:

        Hi Lawrwnce – you commented on the third level of a comment thread so I can’t reply. Instead, I’ll tag this comment onto the end of your own. You make a lot of useful points. I agree entirely that there are equality issues for men as well as women. Our patriarchal society damages everyone. However, the post was about the statistics of two specific cancers and you have not really engaged with any of those points.

    • “reared its ugly head”? why does the word feminist sound so much righteous than chauvinist these days? Seems to me no one actually ones wants EQUALITY, just revenge and the conquering of past wrongdoings. Blaming today’s male population on discrimination from the past is like abusing Angela Merckel for the Nazi party.
      I believe we need to address female participation in the workforce, female positions in leadership for business but who is addressing the drop in school grades for men? Or the reason why male life expectancy is far shorter? Or custodial rights? No one. Because people are too afraid.
      Don’t worry, when the feminists finally take over it will be men that launch the counter-attack. We’re got at least 4000 years of experience with it so I’m not fussed.

    • So both breast and prostate cancers have about the same incidence and kill about the same number of men as women – but the female version receives 2x the research funding. The only rationale the author gives for this is because women get it younger, and they are mothers? I had to look it up separately, and yes average age women get breast cancer is 61 and average age men get prostate cancer is 66. Wait. So the 200% difference in funding is not sexism and gynocentrism – it’s ageism then? Well. There you have it. That’s totally justifiable and can be defended (sarc).

      • Fascinating how this post still gets the occasional drive-by, almost three years later. Did you actually *read* the post? Because if so, you would understand why average age of onset far from the only relevant statistic.

      • Hi S,
        You’ll see in one of my comments above I calculate PYLL, and that shows that the number of years of life lost per 100,000 population is 4x higher in the case of breast cancer than prostate cancer. As Steve says, the mean age doesn’t tell you much – it’s the distribution of ages that make the difference.

  3. If you look hard enough to get a bias you’ll always get one and that’s what’s happened.

    How dare men speak out about equality, going off the logic of the author them i’m sure she agrees with warren farrell on why men get paid more and the reasoning behind that, more likely to stay longer in work, more likely to die in work etc

  4. Maybe our cancer funding drives shouldn’t be so bloody openly sexist.

    Seriously, this entire article is trying to find a reason why one gender deserves to live more than the other, and not why donations are clearly sexist, as seen in the stats. The objectivity here is laughable – the article was written around the selective research chosen, with an all-too-easy justification of its results. Men were dehumanized from the onset as whiney MRA’s who stood to die anyways and, though dying in similar numbers somehow had it better, while women were young women and mothers who lost precious years (despite factually the vast majority that were indeed NOT young). The sickly biased and unfounded takeaway “Breast cancer kills young women and kills mothers while their children are young” deliberately leads the reader away from visibly different facts, none of which refer to parenting. Apparently, the fathers of young children don’t matter.

    I guess I’ll look elsewhere for objective journalism. I’ll come back here for FOX News. This sexist high-school propaganda should be removed from the net to prevent making matters worse.

    • I would be interested in seeing your statistics. Are you saying that there are equal numbers of young men and women dying from prostate and breast cancer? The statistics don’t support that. Or are you saying that age shouldn’t matter, and that (given limited funding) we should put the same effort into saving a 65 year old man as we do into saving a 30 year old woman? That is an ethical issue, as I explained above. It’s your decision to make, but I don’t think it is unreasonable to prioritise the young.

      As for “selective research”, I would be interested in seeing the alternative research. I thought I was pretty even-handed when I cited the literature (I’m not a cancer specialist, but I do have access to journals through a university). Maybe you could cite the studies that I have missed?

      Finally, what are the “visibly different facts” away from which I lead the reader? That was a bit enigmatic, and again I would be interested in seeing your statistics.

      • As you should know, one can find supportive documentation for pretty much any argument. In the end, if an argument doesn’t pass the sniff test, it is probably biased. In this case, several obvious things stood out as missing, several key supportive assumptions are made, and the language and flow of the argument seemed predetermined from the outset. I will not go to every point, but a few rich examples.

        First, your take “Breast cancer kills young women and kills mothers while their children are young” is unfounded by the info presented, yet is presented as a conclusion, and divides breast cancer from prostate cancer in ways not recognizing critical differences in how each is first discovered. It doesn’t kill young men? And young fathers? Breast cancer is commonly first self-detected as a lump that is easily felt by hand, whle prostate cancer requires a digital exam not even first run on a man until he is already middle aged – if ever, giving it plenty of time to metastasize, perhaps never to be discovered or identified as the primary cancer. So breast cancer stands readily to be identified as a primary cancer – and identified as such earlier in life – far more readily than prostate cancer. That said, the perception of breast cancer as being more lethal, however inaccurate it may or may not be, does presumably lend itself towards higher research attention, likely fueled by the powerful Pink Ribbon juggernaut.

        Secondly, and further to the above point, around the world, men are generally older than their brides, as they are expected within many cultures to have careers before becoming providers (a common fact). Therefore older men dying of cancer can also have young children.

        Third, the mortality of cancer is higher for men, yet this key number goes uncited and unexplained here; thus, it’s quite conceivable via the statistics that men are getting prostate cancer that goes undetected as such, and their deaths are being improperly categorized under some secondary cancer type, such as lung or liver. Men are also far more prone to suicide in their 30’s than women, masking what would include a portion dying by cancer, but opting an early out.

        Finally, the presupposition of the insignificance of the elderly suggests that somehow this means research-specified donations will somehow be fewer, but no mention of data is made to support this. In general, the wording and tack you use translates into “old men don’t matter as much as young women”, “mothers matter more than fathers” and “more women die of breast cancer than men from prostate cancer”, none of which prove why research funding is so much higher for breast cancer.

        Generally, your argument confuses discussion as to why breast cancer research deserves more funding with why it actually gets more funding. This allows a cross-breeding of opinion and fact, such as the above inclusion of children, from the perspective of a mother’s age, without giving fathers any significance. Further, it sidesteps any criticism of the existing funding bias, as if it should only be natural on the basis of the limited facts presented. In other words, it is literally, through exclusion, justifying the deaths of men, being essentially, at heart, an argument as to why women deserve funding. This point is brought home by your sentences:
        [“The reason for our fear (and, as a result, our funding) of breast cancer is that it can strike at almost any time and poses a considerable risk when women do suffer from it.”]
        [“Prostate cancer, by and large, kills older men. While no less of a tragedy, these men have lived long lives and are at greatly increased risk from a range of other ailments”]
        The use of “our” and “suffer” clearly shows a personal bias and intent to justify against the depersonalized and insensitive “these” and “having lived long lives”, not to mention that it’s somehow NOT suffering to be an old man dying a slow, painful death by cancer.
        [“…breast cancer has a greater societal impact through greater mortality at younger ages and that is why we can justifiable provide greater funding to breast cancer research.”]
        So again, we have a major conclusion that is not met out by the facts. The roles of the men dying of prostate cancer are not even considered. If they are the sole provider in a household full of kids, I’m sure it has a comparable impact, but then, reading this, I guess we’d never know.

        —————————————————————————-

        A few notes:

        According to the stats referred to here, more men die of cancer of any kind, so clearly, something is causing men to die of some kind of cancer in general:
        http://www.cancer.ca/canada-wide/about%20cancer/cancer%20statistics/stats%20at%20a%20glance/general%20cancer%20stats.aspx

        These stats demonstrate the ease at which one’s bias can enter citations and manipulate and distort the resulting conclusions. For example, if you look quickly at figures 3.2 and 3.3, young women die of cancer more than young men. But on closer inspection, we see that actual death numbers for young males is much higher than the percentage figures make it appear. So the stats can equally be used to point out higher numbers in cancer death rates for men by numbers, and for women by percentage.
        http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/mortality/age/uk-cancer-mortality-statistics-by-age

        Tumor burden is seen as a major cause in cancer-related death in both men and women. Neither women nor men are likely to die from breast or prostate cancer, rather from tumor burden, etc. So a missing argument is why there should be any gender division in the research funding at all.

  5. I’m not sure if you understand statistics as well as the author, friend. In your last linked website, in the age-group 25-49 the number of deaths from all cancers was approx. as follows:
    Men: 17% x 17,138 = 2,913
    Women: 39% x 9,956 = 3,883
    So women was quite a bit higher (970) .
    The ‘Children’ and ‘Teenager’ group is not really relevant to breast or prostate cancer.
    As for whether we should value a 30 year old woman or a 60 year old man more highly – that is a complex ethical question. However, “years of life lost” type studies is a common way to look at funding. If it costs $100 to save a 30 year old woman and a 60 year old man who both would have lived to 75 – then for the man this is $6.67 per year of life and $2.22 per year of life for the woman. Also as the woman would have a longer life expectancy, her number would come lower still.

    But I don’t think you really intend to reconsider your views no matter what anyone says.

    • Hi TAISN,

      Sorry for taking so long to respond – only just noticed this comment!

      – As you should know, one can find supportive documentation for pretty much any argument. In the end, if an argument doesn’t pass the sniff test, it is probably biased. In this case, several obvious things stood out as missing, several key supportive assumptions are made, and the language and flow of the argument seemed predetermined from the outset. I will not go to every point, but a few rich examples.

      By “sniff test” you mean “my subjective impression”. I cite science. Feel free to do the same.

      – First, your take “Breast cancer kills young women and kills mothers while their children are young” is unfounded by the info presented, yet is presented as a conclusion, and divides breast cancer from prostate cancer in ways not recognizing critical differences in how each is first discovered.

      No it doesn’t. First, it does kill young women (see the graph). Second, approximately 75% of women of child bearing age have children so those young women are likely to be mothers.

      – It doesn’t kill young men? And young fathers?

      I never said it didn’t, but men are dying a lot less than women of a similar age – that is the crux of the argument.

      – Breast cancer is commonly first self-detected as a lump that is easily felt by hand, whle prostate cancer requires a digital exam not even first run on a man until he is already middle aged – if ever, giving it plenty of time to metastasize, perhaps never to be discovered or identified as the primary cancer. So breast cancer stands readily to be identified as a primary cancer – and identified as such earlier in life – far more readily than prostate cancer. That said, the perception of breast cancer as being more lethal, however inaccurate it may or may not be, does presumably lend itself towards higher research attention, likely fueled by the powerful Pink Ribbon juggernaut.

      Do you have data on this variation in rates of detection? I’d be interested to see it.

      – Secondly, and further to the above point, around the world, men are generally older than their brides, as they are expected within many cultures to have careers before becoming providers (a common fact). Therefore older men dying of cancer can also have young children.

      I agree, but they die after having lived longer than women. The “father and mother” argument is tangential to the central issue of years of life lost.

      – Third, the mortality of cancer is higher for men, yet this key number goes uncited and unexplained here; thus, it’s quite conceivable via the statistics that men are getting prostate cancer that goes undetected as such, and their deaths are being improperly categorized under some secondary cancer type, such as lung or liver. Men are also far more prone to suicide in their 30′s than women, masking what would include a portion dying by cancer, but opting an early out.

      Male cancer deaths represent 52% of the total (http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/mortality/all-cancers-combined/). This is not huge, but you use it as a basis for wild speculation… I’m not saying you’re wrong, but do you have data on this? I’d be interested to see it.

      – Finally, the presupposition of the insignificance of the elderly suggests that somehow this means research-specified donations will somehow be fewer, but no mention of data is made to support this. In general, the wording and tack you use translates into “old men don’t matter as much as young women”, “mothers matter more than fathers” and “more women die of breast cancer than men from prostate cancer”, none of which prove why research funding is so much higher for breast cancer.

      I was never going to “prove” anything – this is simply one line of argument that can justify this situation. The issue of “young people are worth more than old people” is a complex ethical issue as highlighted above, but it is a rational response to a very difficult decision (all other things being equal). Also, you don’t seem to have read the piece – I state clearly that the same number of men and women die from prostate and breast cancer, respectively. The argument is based on relative AGE.

      – Generally, your argument confuses discussion as to why breast cancer research deserves more funding with why it actually gets more funding.

      The argument that I make is based on a potential justification for the funding difference. I would expect the justification to also be one of the reasons for the difference… I don’t really see what you are trying to say here.

      – This allows a cross-breeding of opinion and fact, such as the above inclusion of children, from the perspective of a mother’s age, without giving fathers any significance.
      I state the evidence plainly: there is negligible (though not zero) mortality due to prostate cancer in men under 55. The SEER data from the US National Cancer Institute doesn’t even have records for mortality from prostate cancer for the under 25s: http://seer.cancer.gov/csr/1975_2009_pops09/browse_csr.php?sectionSEL=23&pageSEL=sect_23_table.07.html.

      – Further, it sidesteps any criticism of the existing funding bias, as if it should only be natural on the basis of the limited facts presented. In other words, it is literally, through exclusion, justifying the deaths of men, being essentially, at heart, an argument as to why women deserve funding. This point is brought home by your sentences:
      [“The reason for our fear (and, as a result, our funding) of breast cancer is that it can strike at almost any time and poses a considerable risk when women do suffer from it.”]
      [“Prostate cancer, by and large, kills older men. While no less of a tragedy, these men have lived long lives and are at greatly increased risk from a range of other ailments”]
      The use of “our” and “suffer” clearly shows a personal bias and intent to justify against the depersonalized and insensitive “these” and “having lived long lives”, not to mention that it’s somehow NOT suffering to be an old man dying a slow, painful death by cancer.

      You’re inferring a great deal from my choice of words. I think we as a society are afraid of breast cancer, aren’t we? And people do suffer from cancer! You dodge the issue of an increase in all-cause mortality in older populations, which makes treating cancer aggressively less appealing for medical practitioners. I agree that I probably do have a bias (we all do), although I don’t have a horse in this particular race so I can’t understand what drives it. However, I can be biased and still be right 😉

      – [“…breast cancer has a greater societal impact through greater mortality at younger ages and that is why we can justifiable provide greater funding to breast cancer research.”]
      So again, we have a major conclusion that is not met out by the facts. The roles of the men dying of prostate cancer are not even considered. If they are the sole provider in a household full of kids, I’m sure it has a comparable impact, but then, reading this, I guess we’d never know.

      Do you have data on this? I’d be interested to see it. I agree that the loss of money will have an impact, but will that have the same impact as the loss of a person? Strange that you should argue this, having accused me of dehumanising men…

  6. So, how many 70 year old men’s lives are worth a 50 year old women’s life ? Because that’s pretty much what you are saying.

  7. Thank you for a very informative blog post, and as someone who do think that the MRA brings up fair points, this is an area where they seem to be just wrong. I would also (reluctantly) have to agree that saving a young person is preferable to saving an old person, but the massive discrepancy in funding between breast and prostate cancer is a bit too glaring to me.

    This is especially since the breast cancer research also pulls in massive amounts of non-grant and non-federal funding money, while no one wears the “blue ribbon”. I would argue that this is because of our cultural tendency to put women first, but that is for another day.. I would like to instead out the thumbscrews on companies collecting money for the pink ribbon, so that not these huge amunts of money would be lost in the overhead. If this can be done, I can absolutely support a decrease in federal funding for breast cancer (and an increase in prostate cancer) research, since it would receive well over what prostate cancer research gets in private funding anyway. This would possibly eliminate a lot of the most glaring inequalitites.

    • Hi Jakke, thanks for commenting. I wanted to provide the data so people could make up their own minds. Obviously some readers disagree with me, and that’s fine. I do think it is a valid argument. The issue of charity and public profile is an important one, especially because of the stigma attached to prostate cancer, and the importance of early detection.

  8. Well written. This is the first reasonable post I’ve seen on why there is a difference between funding for breast cancer and prostate cancer. It is well written well researched and properly documented. The one type of post that I like more than ones that support my opinions are the ones that change my mind. So, good job on that.

    • Hi GNL – glad to hear you found the evidence useful. It’s one way of looking at things, and I’m not saying the situation is perfect. However, a years-of-life-lost approach does seem reasonable…

  9. I read your article which I take as accurate and yet I come away with different conclusions.

    Indeed it seems the MRAs by your account have a fair point, and are not going overboard as they emphasize it. And while you can conclude it is better to save the lives of younger women, that is mostly just a value judgment, your value judgment, and it is rightfully noted as sexist even as you believe you can rationalize it in economic terms.

    Indeed when you write:

    ” While no less of a tragedy, these men have lived long lives and are at greatly increased risk from a range of other ailments (heart disease among them).”

    It makes me wonder if you understand the meaning of the phrase “no less” because while you claim it is “no less” a tragedy, you immediately explain why it is a lesser tragedy!

    Weird.

    However, though I come to a different conclusion, and think your data and analysis buttresses MRA claims, I truly do thank you for a clear post with clear understandable graphics, it does help illuminate the similarities and differences of these diseases and the points in the various arguments pro and con.

    • Jacques, thanks for commenting. I’m glad you appreciate the data. I completely understand that some people will disagree with my opinions, and they are well within their rights to do so. The years-of-life-lost metric is a terrible thing to use but when we have limited funds and have to (effectively) decide who lives and who dies, these are the tools that we have available to us. What is the solution? Equal money for both? On what basis do you make that choice?

  10. So basically, since prostate cancer affects men later than breast cancer does women, that’s why funding for breast cancer research is more important? I’d call you a sexist piece of human filth, but even that seems to smell better than you.

  11. Have been looking into this a bit today and was pleased to find this well written and researched post. What would be interesting is to see the percentages for the sources of funding for each cancer. For example, it’s a different issue if the state is providing a vastly disproportionate amount of funding for breast cancer than prostate cancer. Another interesting thing would be to compare the disparity between other kinds of gender specific cancers (Testicular and Cervical spring to mind.) Though breast cancer may have a “friendlier” image that people can get behind more, a comparison with these other cancers should give some insight as to whether there is an overall gender bias in cancer funding.

    Thanks

    • I agree – that’s a great idea. You would predict that the overall funding of cancer would be related to the YLL, and that there would be no systematic variation between cancers predominantly affecting one sex. Are you volunteering to do the work? 😉

  12. Article starts with accusing all Men’s Rights Activists of, for want of better words, indecency and unfairness.
    Can’t continue to read.
    Sometimes I feel that I’m the only one who wants actually equality, fuck chauvinists and fuck feminists.

  13. Bigoted Sexist Bullshit. Here is an interesting point for you. At birth men make up 53% the population, by a man’s retirement age of 65 (compared to a woman’s 60) men make up only 39% of the population. Men work longer hours in more dangerous jobs, pay the vast majority of income tax despite the fact women control most of domestic spending and after a lifetimes servitude they are basically told thanks for all your service and tax money, now fuck off and die early because a sexist society riddled with gynocentric brainwashing has finished exploiting you.

    Ps
    Breast cancer research receives more than double the funding than any other form of cancer,
    including the number one killer, lung cancer.

    http://www.aleksandreia.com/2012/02/25/the-unfairness-in-cancer-research-funding/

    • Hi there – apologies for the delay, but you were buried in a pile of spam that I have only just had a chance to clear.

      Worth noting that much of this is changing. Retirement age doesn’t exist anymore, and the pensionable age will equalise by 2018. I agree that this current state of affairs is outmoded and I’m pleased to see it shifting (in the UK, at least – I don’t know about elsewhere). I also agree that men work in more dangerous jobs – safety at work is an issue that MRAs are right about, although it shouldn’t be a men’s issue but a general issue. Men certainly pay most of the income tax as well, but a part of that is due to the gender wage gap and discrimination against women at higher levels of employment. If you see your domestic situation as one of such abject servitude, then I feel sorry for you – maybe you should get out?

      It is important to note that you haven’t mentioned any of the positive sides of being a man. You can find a short list here: http://amptoons.com/blog/the-male-privilege-checklist/. You can try to paint men as long suffering oxen yolked under female oppression if you like, but that simply isn’t an accurate representation of the situation.

      Finally, 86% of cases of lung cancer are linked to smoking (http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-help/type/lung-cancer/about/lung-cancer-risks-and-causes). This means that we know how to reduce lung cancer, and it isn’t necessarily treatment of existing cancers. The smoking cessation investment by public bodies is unique to lung cancer and involves a huge amount of money – there is no equivalent for other cancers because there is no clear causal link. I haven’t been able to find stats on the gross spend on smoking cessation as the figures are frequently expressed as QALYs (quality-adjusted life years – precisely the argument I put forward in the original blog post – but you can find some data here: http://www.bmj.com/rapid-response/2011/10/28/smoking-cessation-services-top-return-investment).

      All that said, I have never claimed that we shouldn’t be investing more in research into other cancers. Prostate cancer in particular is going to increase in prominence as men live longer and so there is a definite reason to increase investment in treatment and diagnosis.

      • Uh-0h! loss off credibility alert! Wage gap? Seriously? Discrimination against women at the CEO level? Oh me, oh MY!

        This has been disproven about…a DOZEN times already?

  14. This is the best analysis I have seen to date on the issue of cancer research spending for the different genders. I congratulate you on that.

    I refer to you comment above: ” Men certainly pay most of the income tax as well, but a part of that is due to the gender wage gap and discrimination against women at higher levels of employment.”

    I have come across this comment by the USA Department of Labour on a CONSAD Research Corporationon document titled: “An Analysis of the Reasons for the Disparity in Wages between Men and Women”:

    “There are observable differences in the attributes of men and women that account for most of the wage gap. Statistical analysis that includes those variables has produced results that
    collectively account for between 65.1 and 76.4 percent of a raw gender wage gap of 20.4 percent, and thereby leave an adjusted gender wage gap that is between 4.8 and 7.1 percent.
    These variables include
    :
    A greater percentage of women than men tend to work part-time. Part-time work tends to
    pay less than full-time work.

    A greater percentage of women than men tend to leave the labor force for child birth, child
    care and elder care. Some of the wage gap is explained by the percentage of women who
    were not in the labor force during previous years, the age of women, and the number of child
    ren in the home.

    Women, especially working mothers, tend to value “family friendly” workplace policies more than men. Some of the wage gap is explained by industry and occupation, particularly
    the percentage of women who work in the industry and occupation.

    Research also suggests that differences not incorporated into the model due to data limitations may account for part of the remaining gap. Specifically, CONSAD’s model and much of the literature, including the Bureau of Labor Statistics Highlights of Women’s Earnings, focus on wages rather than total compensation. Research indicates that women may value non-wage benefits more than men do, and as a result prefer to take a greater portion of their compensation in the form of health insurance and other fringe benefits.”

    “Although additional research in this area is clearly needed, this study leads to the unambiguous conclusion that the differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.”

    I am aware that you are a biologist and scientist and that health issues are closer to your field of interest than labour issues. However, given your statement that I quote above, have you got any additional research that confirms or confounds the opinion in 2009 of the US Department of Labour (or Labor as they say in the USA)?

    :

  15. Katatrepsis.com “Why does breast cancer research receive more research funding than prostate cancer?”

    Tudor Wright

    I have only just read your most interesting essay of 30 October 2012 and as a 74 years old prostate cancer patient (living in the UK) I would like to make a few comments.
    Clearly, there is a wide funding gap not just between research into breast and prostate cancers but in screening and treatment funding for these cancers, in research, scanning and treatment for all gender specific cancers (and medical conditions, as here in the UK it has been estimated that the Department of Health spends eight times as much money on specific female health issues as on male ones even excluding maternity care (‘Guardian‘ 8 January 2001)) and also for all common cancers. In fact, the Dept. of Health spends four times more money on breast cancer than on the far more common lung and bowel cancers despite lung and bowel cancers accounting for four times more deaths (of these three most common cancers, breast cancer accounts for 19 per cent of deaths yet receives 78 per cent of funding). Furthermore, a report by Cancer Research UK in 2009 tells us that men diagnosed with cancer are far more likely to die from the disease than women – due to a higher initial risk and later detection. “Men are 40 per cent more likely to die from cancer than women overall, and 16 per cent more likely to get the disease. [But with] cancers that affected both men and women, the difference was even more striking. Men were 60 per cent more likely to get cancer than women, and 70 per cent more likely to die from it.” Professor David Foreman, who helped carry out this research for Cancer UK, said he was “surprised” by the results as there are no known biological reasons why men should be at greater risk for many forms of cancer. No wonder then that so many people get exercised by what appears to be quite unjustified disparities in cancer research funding!
    However, just looking at the funding gap between breast and prostate cancer research and treatment, you make the good point that spending more money on breast cancer is justified as this disease affects more young women (who are of child-rearing age) than young men. I think one of your respondents makes the point that older men (who are therefore at risk of prostate cancer) are still fertile while older women are not – but against this, older men will have fewer ‘potential years life lost’ compared to younger women although not necessarily fewer ‘quality adjusted life years ‘if they become fathers in later life, but of course their number will be relatively small.
    However, your conclusion is somewhat undermined by your own evidence, for the graph “Age variation in cancer mortality” shows that the number of young women and of child-rearing age who die from breast cancer are not significant relative to women of all ages and whose numbers increase steadily from middle age through old age ( as do those of men with prostate cancer), and your graph “Age variation in cancer incidence” shows that the number of women under 40 are also not significant relative to women of all ages and whose numbers increase steadily from middle age and then steadily decrease in old age ( as do those of men with prostate cancer). While your graph “Variation in chance of dying” shows that women at most ages are at greater risk of dying from breast cancer than men from prostate cancer, it does not take into account that prostate cancer – which is slow-growing – usually metastasizes into other fast-growing cancers which can then become the cause of death.
    Nevertheless, one takes the point that there are more women of a young age who contract breast cancer as compared with young men who contract prostate cancer and this therefore justifies some higher funding of breast cancer research than of prostate cancer research. But how much more? Is the present balance about right? Or should even more money be spent on breast cancer research – or more on prostate cancer research and less on breast cancer research?
    But before trying to answer these questions let us examine the reasons and causes for the gender funding gap. Your conclusion is that the disparity in funding is “a result” of society’s fear of breast cancer killing young women and young mothers while their children are young (even though women who have children are at a reduced risk compared to women who have not), but you provide no evidence for this conclusion. It would be nice to think that such rational and moral reasoning does operate, but in the real world there are more mundane causes. So for Professor Karol Sikora, Medical Director of Cancer Partners UK and a former chief to the World Health Organisation’s Cancer Programmes, the cause of the greater funding for breast cancer has been that of political opportunism.
    “The fact is,” he writes, “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. Take breast cancer. I became a consultant in 1979, the same year that Margaret Thatcher introduced a controversial nationwide breast-screening programme. 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. But it has come at a phenomenal cost – equivalent to around £1million per life saved [and] we have to ask whether that money could have saved even more lives if it had been spent in other areas of medicine. I believe it could. “(Mail Online 15 June 2009).
    Since 1979, screening programmes have also been introduced in the UK for cervical and ovarian cancers, but there are still no screening programmes for prostate and testicular cancers. A point to bear in mind is that because of their extremely high cost, screening programmes are only viable if sub-groups can be identified who are at a greater risk; here the sub-group most at risk of prostate cancer is men aged 50 and over (and particularly black men as they are at twice the risk of contracting and dying of prostate cancer than white men) and this is much smaller than the sub-group of women at greater risk of breast cancer (those aged 35 and over), and yet men are not screened whereas women are – and we know that screening is effective, for it is estimated that the UK national breast screening programme reduces by 25 per cent the number of deaths in the age group 50 to 64 eligible for screening (and a survey in Sweden showed a 29 per cent reduction in mortality among women aged 50 to 69).
    Apart from political opportunism, I would suggest there are two other major causes for the funding disparity between breast and prostate cancers. One is that feminism and the ideology of patriarchy have become the dominant narrative of gender relations in our society: which is that basically women are victims – of men if not of their own bodies – and so clearly deserve more of our support and help just as men – who represent a dominant masculinity – deserve or need less of our support and help. The other cause is that the female breast is totemic – being the primary symbol in our society of femininity, sexual allure and sex itself – and so is to be protected at all costs. But no similar glamour is attached to the prostate (where and what exactly is a prostate?) or compassion bestowed upon its male owners.
    So is too much funding being given to breast cancer research, bearing in mind that resources are finite? Professor Sikora has argued this is the case, and so have many others, including Iona Heath, a former president of the Royal College of General Practitioners and a doctor for 35 years, who published a paper in October 2014 in the ‘British Medical Journal’ suggesting that screening – including tests for breast cancer – should not be routinely performed. “Breast cancer screening”, she says, “undoubtedly harms more people than the number of lives it prolongs”, and she claims that for every one cancer discovered, ten women are “over treated” unnecessarily with surgery, chemo or radiotherapy.
    So bearing in mind there is no nationwide screening programme for prostate cancer in the UK, should more money be diverted to it? Even though the numbers of men affected are only significant from the age of 50 onwards, reducing the risk of death from prostate cancer will mean men having an average life expectancy at age 50 of, say, another 33 years, at 60 another 25 years, at 70 another 17 years, at 80 another 10 years, and so on. Untreated prostate cancer may be slow-growing but it is eventually fatal if it has not already metastasized into fast-growing and painful conditions such as bladder and bowel cancers, or the man has not died from another illness.
    At present, unfortunately, diagnosis of prostate cancer is practically and scientifically more difficult than of breast cancer. The practical problems, from my own personal experience, include a great reluctance from health professionals to provide early examination and testing and, as a result, my own prostate cancer remained undetected for several years longer than it should. (According to the National Cancer Experience Survey 2012, 24 per cent of men with prostate cancer have to visit their doctor at least three times before their disease is identified, compared with only eight per cent of women with breast cancer).
    The scientific difficulties include a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test which has drawbacks in that it can give false positives (worrying, and resulting in unnecessary and invasive procedures) and false negatives (potentially fatal, and the National Health Service test form tells us: “A normal PSA does not exclude prostatic cancer”). A digital rectal examination can detect cancer but can also produce false negatives as only the back and lower part of the prostate gland can be palpated. Similarly, a standard trans-rectal ultra-sound (‘TRUS’) guided biopsy can only detect cancer in the back and lower part of the prostate and so give a false negative when cancer is present in the top or front of the gland.
    What could serve as an effective screening tool is multi-parametric magnetic resonance imaging (‘MP-MRI’) which, with a skilled radiologist, provides clear and accurate images of the whole prostate and any lesions. The procedure takes 30 – 40 minutes and so is longer than the usual 15 minutes for a mammogram (breast cancer test) and is therefore more costly – but will enable earlier and more appropriate treatment than from the other existing detection methods. (At present there is a pan-European research study which hopefully will result in widespread MRI testing; this is called PROMIS: Prostate MRI Imaging Study). So with political will and a reasonable increase in funding there could be a nationwide MP-MRI screening programme for prostate cancer that gives accurate diagnoses and so provides men with options for treatment that improves and prolongs their lives by many years.
    To sum up. Your overall conclusion that “breast cancer has a greater societal impact through greater mortality at younger ages and that is why we can justifiably provide greater funding to breast cancer research” is true but needs to be qualified, for while you have persuasively argued that more funding can be justified for breast cancer research than for prostate cancer research, there is good evidence that in a situation of finite resources the present funding level on breast cancer should be reduced and that of prostate cancer increased.

    *

    Your last respondent, Jorge, raises the question of the gender pay gap, and he quotes the reasons for this cited by the US Dept of Labor in a CONSAD study. These largely hold true for the UK too, although here there is no longer a gender pay gap among the under 40s and already among the 20s in full-time work women are on average paid slightly more than men (Equality and Human Rights Commission Report 2014). Overall, though, national pay rates in 2015 for all ages and all types of work show that women are paid on average 19 per cent less than men (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development: CIPD), but this is due to more women than men being in part-time work (at the end of 2014, 42 per cent of all women’s jobs were part-time compared with only 17 per cent of all men’s jobs) and to a pay gap amongst the over 40s which is the result of the tradition (which is disappearing) of men and women doing different types of work – a tradition which has not always favoured men, however, as in full-time jobs men work on average five hours longer than women (Office for National Statistics : ONS) and 11 hours when overtime is taken into account (CIPD).
    For men and women in full-time work the gender pay gap in 2014 was 9.4 per cent and is on a downward trend (ONS: Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings), partly due to the reasons in the CONSAD report which include women here being generally far less attracted to working in the highest paid sectors of commerce such as insurance, banking and financial and commodity trading. (In this sector there were £15billion of bonuses paid out in 2014 representing 30 per cent of total pay, this £15 billion being 36 per cent of all bonuses in Britain, and it even excludes deferred bonuses (ONS). This difference in aspiration skews overall pay distribution away from women, although in full-time employment there is considerable variation with women in schools and hospitals, for example, generally having higher paid positions than men, and overall overt pay discrimination is no longer a problem.
    The main problem with pay and employment as it relates to gender is not actually that of pay discrimination. It is that in full-time jobs men on average work considerably longer hours than women, the work tends to be more onerous and also insecure. (According to a study of 500,000 people in the US, Europe and Australia published in ‘The Lancet’ (20/8/15), the risk of a heart attack or stroke is increased by 10 per cent for an extra hour a day worked and by 33 per cent for three extra hours). But unemployment is an even greater risk to health from stress, anxiety and depression and in recent years 16 per cent more men than women have been unemployed (ONS). More alarmingly, for the under 25s in 2015, 30 per cent more men than women are unemployed (it is perhaps no coincidence that overall men aged 20 to 24 are now three times more likely to die than young women).
    Only a few days ago, our right-wing government was forced to reveal (Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) report ‘Mortality Statistics’ 27 August 2015) that over the 27 months to February 2014 there was an excess mortality rate of 67 deaths per day (or 470 per week) among claimants of incapacity benefits, as compared to the previous 11 months. Over the whole 38 months period, 92,740 claimants (all of working age) died, and we can fairly assume that the great majority of these were men. Of these claimants, 9,580 had been told they were presently or shortly fit for work – although obviously, barring accidents, none of them should have died. Some commentators have suggested that these deaths have been due to the DWP’s increasingly harsh treatment of claimants which includes a stringent ‘Work Capability Assessment’ (WCA), with 40,680 claimants of unemployment benefit (i.e. those already fit for work) dying within a year of a WCA. More significantly, 2,380 claimants classified as unfit for work died within two weeks of a WCA decision that they would have to seek work – and because of these deaths the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is now formally investigating whether the Conservative government’s welfare reforms are now violating the human rights of disabled people. (There were also a further 270 claimants classified as incapacitated or severely disabled who died within six weeks of a WCA decision that they were “fit for work”).
    A DWP internal review of 49 of these benefits-related deaths shows that at least 40 were suicides (‘Guardian’ 28/8/15). We know that stress and anxiety lower one’s immune system and ability to fight cardiovascular diseases and cancers, and depression is a contributory cause of suicide. (Men are three times as likely to commit suicide as women, with young men in 2015 being five times more likely to kill themselves as young women – and suicide is now the major cause of death of all men under the age of 50).
    Partly due to the stress from both employment and unemployment, and partly due to less healthy life-styles, men also develop heart disease 10 years earlier than women, with over 60 per cent more men than women suffering from heart disease, heart attacks and heart failure; similarly, nearly 60 per cent more men than women suffer strokes (including my father who died of stroke in his 50s after losing his job). And when we look at cancer we find that although more males than females are dying from cancer every year, men diagnosed with cancer are far more likely to die from the disease than women – due to a higher initial risk and later detection. But this is where I came in…..

    • Tudor, having read this article and your response I just wanted to thank you for adding a lot more colour to what was a superficial and black/white piece written from a feminist perspective. I note with interest that unlike other posts the author has not responded to you.

      I was going to add a post identifying that in the UK the NHS has extended Breast cancer screening to women aged over 70 so no longer having the social value of younger women if we agree with the author of this piece. But spending yet more scarce resources on women specific cancers when men don’t even have a screening process at all.

      The author skates over this – basically men don’t have the luxury of being screened for this cancer and often we find out when it’s too late. In other words it is a constant concern to a greater or lesser degree to all men, whereas women who have that concern have a screening program to alleviate it.

      You have said it with far more eloquence and knowledge than I could and your reply to me clearly adds more weight to the theory that we live in a gynocentric society in the U.K. and supports the old adage that men are disposable whilst women are not.

      Once again, Tudor, thank you for tak No the time to write your post, superb.

      • Hi Serge,

        Thanks for your comment. I try to approve anything that isn’t spam, so what you see on the blog is everything that isn’t adverts for Chinese stuffed toy manufacturers. However, Tudor and I actually had an exchange by email, where I apologised for a delay in approving his post (it got lost in the junk). Here is the text of the email that I sent to Tudor on 19th September 2015 (I will not repost Tudor’s response without his/her permission):

        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

        Hi Tudor,

        Sorry, there was a comment that popped up at the same time that you emailed me, but it must have been someone else. I see now that that other comment was posted on 8th September. I dug through my spam folder and found your comment (I think your thorough and elegant writing style convinced the system that it couldn’t be a blog comment!). It should be live on the blog now. There is a lot of really interesting information in there and you clearly have a very informed and nuanced view of the situation. You might be interested in a paper published in 2012 (which I reference on a slightly later comment): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22800364. This paper does the analysis that I performed, but for a wide array of cancers. There is clearly a disparity in funding across different cancer types, and when you look at the proportion of funding allotted to prostate cancer, it seems that this too is “over-funded” (although these are US data, I believe).

        There is clearly a very important conversation to be had about where funding goes, and where research priorities lie. I think a point that is very relevant to your comment is that everybody is living longer today. This means that there is a fairly rapid increase in years of life lost per prostate cancer case. I do not know what consequence that has for these kinds of calculations, but I expect that prostate cancer will have increased in importance relative to other types of cancer.

        Best wishes,

        Chris
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

        I suggest you check out the link that I posted in my response to Tudor. That paper points out that prostate cancer, too, is massively over-funded compared to the risk of the disease. There are far more dangerous cancers that are not sex-specific and which are not funded to the same level.

        Now on to your argument. We do not have a prostate cancer screening programme because it has not been demonstrated that the costs outweigh the benefits. Tests for prostate cancer throw up a lot of false positives, for instance. You state that it is “a constant concern to a greater or lesser degree to all men”, which is nonsense. It is an extremely rare disease in young men, and so is not a concern in all men. That is the entire point of the post, but you seem not to have appreciated the figures.

        Further, your suggestion that we live in a “gynocentric society” where men are expendable must be increasingly difficult to hold, given that the most significant breakthrough in recent cancer research has been in prostate cancer treatment: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/dec/20/prostate-cancer-laser-treatment-could-be-game-changer-for-men.

      • Hi Chris,

        Thank you for the quick and unexpected response!

        I found your original article interesting and for me it was only spoilt by your comments about the MRA movement at the beginning of your article – I’m unclear as to why arguing for men’s rights should be regarded in such a way. After all men are human being too and anybody who is in favour of human rights should also be in favour of men’s rights surely?

        I accept there are elements of the MRA who are as bad as radical third wave feminists but the MRA is not a single homogenous group, no more than feminists are.

        Anyway I digress – in my view women and girls have issues but so do men and boys and equality is not a competition. It’s a pity it is seen as such when men’s rights are brought up. There is, certainly in the U.K. (And probably the USA from what I have read), a ready ear for women’s issues but that is not the case for men’s issues.

        I note with interest the link you provided about the new prostrate treatment, which is actually what brought me to your post in the first place as I was looking at comparative funding for a simple Facebook post.

        What’s interesting about this new and very welcome approach though is:
        It is for treatment after the cancer has been diagnosed, and is suitable for early stage cancer. The problem here of course is that there is no successful screening for the condition so many cases will not be suitable as it will be too late and the cancer will already have spread to other areas of the body.

        I wonder why there is not a more successful screening test available for this condition as catching it early seems to be critical. Or maybe it’s just not a priority? Of course we can argue all day about the priority for health spend but I imagine it will be a brave politician that dares to suggest cutting Breast cancer funding – but it would also be a brave politician who suggests increasing spend on prostrate cancer research.

        I am particularly interested in the lack of successful screening as several members of my family have died from the disease – it was found too late- and obviously I wonder if I will be next.

        The second interesting thing is that the new technique you mention came out of Israel rather than the UK or USA. This is despite having one of the best funded cancer research bodies (Cancer Research) in the world, as you point out. My comment about living in a gynocentric society applies of course to the UK and not Israel. I do not know enough about the culture of Israel but if it is like the rest of the Middle East it is unlikely to be gynocentric. I stand to be corrected on that of course.

        We may have to accept our difference of opinions on the reality or not of the UK being a gynocentric society. From my view it very much is and is evident across education, university attendance, homelessness, suicide rate, the criminal law, family law, NEET, and more beside. My view is based on far wider society and policy issues than just gender based cancer research.

        For example, I find it interesting that the press were recently all over stats that indicated more women than men attempt suicide but failed to mention that around four times more men than women are actually successful.

        Likewise a recent TV news article on the apparent growth in numbers of young women suffering depression because of what is said on their Social Media. They highlighted the need for mental health services to respond to these depressed young women but completely failed to mention the gender disparity in suicide rates, nor that successive governments have not spent one penny on researching why men are far more likely to commit suicide ( source Nursing Times).

        I wrote to ITV news asking when they were going to cover male mental health and suicide but they didn’t even bother replying. Anecdotal I know but finding it newsworthy that young women suffer depression from their social media feed but not the fact around suicide being the main cause of death for men aged under 50, or are four times more likely to commit suicide than women? I wonder why this is not newsworthy?

        Anyway, no doubt we have different views on this but I repeat both men and women have issues and it is time that governments, the media and academia acknowledged that.

        Once again thank you for your reply, and indeed the original article. I found Tudors response very articulate and researched, far more than mine is I know!

        You don’t come across as a third wave feminist, so I am happy to wish you a merry Christmas, and good luck with your blog 🙂

        Kind regards,

        Steve

        Get Outlook for iOS

  16. While I appreciate the scientific data I do believe there is gender discrimination in the way cancer research funding is allocated. Once you account for variables such as age of diagnosis, mortality rates, economic rationalism, etc etc, there is still a greater proportion of funds going to breast and cervical and ovarian cancer than male types of cancers. Perhaps gender discrimination is the culprit here.

    • Hi Adam, It’s possible that there could still be some imbalance when everything else is taken into account. However, I don’t think it is a male-female cancer issue. This paper: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22800364 suggests that both breast and prostate cancer are over-funded, while non-sex-specific cancers (bladder, esophageal, liver, oral, pancreatic, stomach) are underfunded.

  17. i have often wondered about this same question. your research and explinations are well organized and supported effectively. thank you.

  18. Re: More Feminazist Rhetoric. It always amazes me how a movement can rationalize why they are right. And I always think about the Nazi movement when I read a feminazist article since the tactics used are so similar and their goals are the same. Both are moving towards the master race and gender. They can play with this stat and that stat but men are dying at much higher rates than women. I am surrounded in this neighborhood by widows. Why is a white woman so much more superior than other race/genders?

  19. […] any other case that is connected to well-beings. Now here is the twist, there is this article: Why does breast cancer research receive more research funding than prostate cancer? | Katatrepsis It's about trying to rationalise why females are given a multiple times the health fund than male, […]

  20. Honestly, if you can’t see the relevance of prostate cancer funding vs. breast cancer as something more complex than a simple age metric, you must be blind. It is germane to the same issue as to why men are 95% of workplace deaths and incarcerated for longer sentences for similar crimes than women… and why male so suicide is 400% higher. It is because society doesn’t value men, or men’s issues in the way it does women’s issues. The ‘cancer’ debate is part of larger gender debate, and your attempts to aint it as solely and age metric are highly disingenuous.

    • Hi ITP – thanks for commenting. I agree that there are men’s issues that require action, particularly around mental health and crime. However, men also enjoy systematic advantages in other areas of life. In the particular case of prostate vs breast cancer funding, both are funded far more than they should be (see https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22800364) but in comparison with one another, the two are funded roughly proportionately to the years of life lost. If you want to broaden the discussion to encompass the whole field of human experience, it is very difficult to argue that men have it harder than women.

  21. “However, men also enjoy systematic advantages in other areas of life.”

    Please could you tell us what other areas of life men, as a class (i.e. All men), enjoy systematic advantages? I’m talking about the UK or at least western 1st world society.

    “If you want to broaden the discussion to encompass the whole field of human experience, it is very difficult to argue that men have it harder than women.”

    Interesting comment, are you saying that women have it harder then men in western society? If not I presume you are saying that women (as a class) have it harder then men in some area of human experience – specifically which areas are they, again limiting your thinking to first world western societies especially the UK.

    Thanks in advance.

  22. Hi Serge – thanks for commenting.

    Men enjoy systematic biases in hiring (http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2014-21414-001/), pay (http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0003122416683393), impacts of child care (http://www.thirdway.org/report/the-fatherhood-bonus-and-the-motherhood-penalty-parenthood-and-the-gender-gap-in-pay), and lower rates of sexual assault (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/214970/sexual-offending-overview-jan-2013.pdf), among others.

    I didn’t say definitively that women have it harder than men in Western society – that is a very strong position to take that would require a large number of value judgements that would be difficult (but not, potentially, impossible) to support using high-quality evidence. I said that it is hard to argue that men have it harder than women. Globally, men probably have it far better (the probably is there because I have run out of steam on this response and don’t have the energy to look up global, experimental approaches to gender bias, but we can probably agree that on average the world is male-biased?). The fact that you limit your questions to Western society seems to be a tacit admission that globally there is gender inequality? In Western society, my feeling (and my interpretation of the evidence) is that the balance is still tipped in the favour of men, but that the data suggest that gaps are closing and effects are more insidious than conspicuous.

    My response to your “in which areas of human experience do women have it worse” question is contained above, I think, as it is the inverse of the “men have it better” position in most cases where there is a significant difference between sexes. Do you disagree with me when I say that there are cases in which men enjoy advantages over women (generally or with a restricted geographical scope)? Do you think that women enjoy a net systemic benefit over men (generally or with a restricted geographical scope)?

    I do want to reiterate again that I acknowledge the fact that there are many issues in men’s health and wellbeing that need attention, and that the discrimination against men in cases of mental health and crime is just as reprehensible as any discrimination against women in hiring and pay. We should aim to resolve all such issues. Of course, this is all getting a bit away from a statistical analysis of survival, investment and disease 🙂

  23. Thanks for the post. You’ve changed my thinking on the issue, and I’m revising my position correspondingly. I only wish you hadn’t framed the issue in Feminist v. MRA politics. I think in doing so, you’ve courted fanaticism in your comments and repelled a portion of a would-be audience who will go without seeing a reasoned argument.

    You’ve identified reasons for funding breast cancer research at a higher rate than prostate cancer research that are consonant with my values. However, I don’t think your reasoning has much to do with the justification of the people donating the money. In that sense, the MRAs that use these funding data to identify a societal sexual bias are probably getting some purchase on reality.

    • Hi Tim – thanks for the comment. I agree that the framing could have been more positive. The piece was written in frustration and that has polarised the comments more than I would have liked… I also agree that the justification I present likely doesn’t feature highly in the actual decision-making. There are many social and political forces at work that drive funding priorities. You only have to look at the variation in funding across other cancers in comparison to their severity to see that the argument does not hold across all cancer types.

  24. Just a note, from the chart, I’d say that prostrate cancer infection actually tends to start in the mid to late 30’s, not the 40’s.

  25. The conclusion still doesn’t explain in my opinion the huge difference in funding. I am sure if you did a survey you would find that majority of people don’t have a clue that prostate cancer statistic is this bad.

    Women have many advantages while constantly claiming that they are the victims of the imaginary oppressive patriarchy. Every advantage that women have is clearly measurable (death rates, child custody, work related injuries, better college enrolment rates etc…) while there always has to be “systematic” and implicit male advantages, i.e. women are not expected to provide data, they just have to start crying.

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