Macho culture is sending men to an early grave

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MEN'S DESIRE to appear invulnerable is leading them to ignore early warning signs of disease and sending thousands to an early grave, doctors warned yesterday.

Macho male culture, which discourages men from taking an interest in their health or seeking help when things go wrong, is part of the reason that men die five years earlier than women on average and are twice as likely to die before the age of 65. Deaths from heart disease, cancer, suicide, accidents and Aids are all higher among men. Although death rates are higher among the poor, women in the lowest social classes live longer than men in the highest.

The first clinical guide to men's health, published yesterday, seeks to close the gender gap between the sexes by improving the medical care of men. Roger Kirby, chief editor of the book Men's Health, and a consultant urologist at St George's Hospital in Tooting, south London, said: "We have to change the mind-set of men. They have the concept that if it isn't broken, don't mend it. They wouldn't apply that to their motor car. If you look after your body it won't break down."

He added: "Men need to believe that it isn't macho to ignore disease and to make unhealthy choices. It should be macho to look after their health."

Mr Kirby, a specialist in prostate cancer, has an annual PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) blood test to check for the disease and an annual cholesterol test as well as running regularly and eating salad. But he said screening was only appropriate for those at high risk.

"We have to be cautious before urging everyone to have a `well man' screen. I would not advise every man to have a PSA test every year. It is a question of balance and common sense. The message is to respond early to symptoms. Don't die of ignorance, or because of embarrassment or because you don't want to make a fuss."