There was an interesting article in the October 2009 issue of Bottom Line Health about "the surprising differences" of gender when it comes to cancer risk. Here are some of their conclusions and a summation of their advice:
Bladder Cancer: The increased risk of bladder cancer among men is "mainly due to environmental factors, including smoking (more men smoke) and job-related exposure to toxins -- especially in the processing industries, such as textile, metal, rubber, and printing, which often use heavy metals and other carcinogens." Also, men urinate less often than women, on average, "exposing the bladder to potential carcinogens longer." Self-defense for men and women: Don't smoke. If you have symptoms of bladder cancer, such as blood in your urine, see a doctor. If you're at increased risk (see the above), talk to your doctor about the new tumor marker tests that can help identify this kind of cancer early.
Colorectal Cancer: This year, colorectal cancer is expected to attack 76,000 men and 71,000 women in the US. HRT, or hormone replacement therapy, significantly lowers menopausal women's risk for this type of cancer. One can assume from this that younger women are protected somewhat by higher estrogen levels. Women have shorter intestines than men (because women are generally smaller), thus lowering the transit time for food to pass through the digestive tract. Since women average three-and-one-half to four daily servings of fruits and vegetables, on average, than men, who average two to two-and-one-half, fewer women are stricken with this disease. Self-defense for both gender s: Starting at age 50, get a colonoscopy regularly, a test where a doctor checks for precancerous polyps in your colorectal tract.
Esophageal Cancer: GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a primary risk factors for this type of cancer. With GERD, the esophagus is repeatedly exposed to acid, which can cause cellular changes in the lining that may lead to cancer. Men are much more likely to have GERD, as well as related risk factors, such as drinking heavily, which increases stomach acid production. Plus, men are more likely to have big bellies, a factor which increases pressure on the stomach contents. In the US, esophageal cancer will affect 13,000 men and 3,500 women this year. Self-defense: Drink in moderation (up to one drink daily if you're a woman, up to two drinks daily if you're a man), and lose weight, if necessary. Have any signs of chronic acid reflux treated.
Lung Cancer: Lung cancer is the deadliest of all cancers, striking about 116,000 men and 103,000 women in the US this year. Ten percent of lung cancer patients have never smoked, and women are the most likely to make up this group. Women's risk for this type of cancer may be due to second-hand smoke, but also to estrogen, which some studies indicate can fuel lung cancer tumor growth. HRT, for example, has been show to increase death risk, especially among women smokers. Self-defense : Do not smoke, and avoid second-hand smoke, radon and asbestos whenever possible.
Melanoma: Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, and is more common among women than men under the age of 40. It occurs equally in both sexes between the ages of 40 and 50, and strikes significantly more men than women after 50. Estrogen may account for the difference in melanoma rates. About 30,000 women and 39,000 men in the US are struck by melanoma each year.
In addition, there's a new study out of New York University that found that women under 40 with melanoma "were much more likely to have a variation in the potentially cancer-promoting gene called MDM2." Screening for this variation with a blood test may help identify women at risk. Self-defense for both men and women: Undergo yearly skin exams by a dermatologist, and perform self-exams in front of a mirror to identify changes in size, shape and color of existing moles. Check also for new moles, spots or freckles that look unusual.