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Press release


Research shows Scottish ‘hard man’ attitude still barrier to saving men from male cancers

A recent university study has discovered that the Scottish ‘hard man’ attitude which remains prevalent in many Scottish communities is still preventing men taking on board vital messages about male cancer risks.

The male cancer charity, which commissioned the study, Cahonas Scotland, is calling time on complacency in dealing with the cancer message to men in all of Scotland’s communities. Based on the findings from the research, the charity is pushing for more male cancer awareness raising campaigns which are specifically tailored to the cultural needs of different groups of men living in Scotland.

The study, carried out by Queen Margaret University on behalf of Cahonas Scotland, focussed on what Scottish men from specific communities actually knew about male cancer. Most of the men in the study had limited awareness about specifically male cancers, were reluctant to deal with concerns about male cancer, and would probably ignore symptoms and delay consulting with health professionals or seeking other forms of advice.

Focus groups were conducted with four groups of men in Scotland’s central belt, with care taken to include some groups who were particularly susceptible to male cancers specifically, with representation from groups and areas in Scotland with poor health generally:

  • men over 40 years of age
  • homeless men
  • minority ethnic men
  • men aged 18 – 25 years of age

John Hughes, a sociologist from Queen Margaret University, explained: “Most of the men in this study felt uneasy about being open in relation their feelings about health and wellbeing generally and male cancer specifically. This reluctance was explained within the context of a need to protect those closest to the participants (for example, partners, family and friends), as well as the need to maintain a strong sense of physical and emotional fortitude”. As David, a homeless man who participated in the focus group, said: “Your problem’s your problem, mine in mine. Leave it at that, have a pint, there you go!”

Participants reported that if men are experiencing health-related problems, then they tend to ignore it, “laughing it off” or “kicking their concerns under the carpet”. Most of the participants felt that men in Scotland tended to take no action until their symptoms could no longer be easily ignored, rather than seeking information, talking to friends or family about their experiences, or seeking professional advice and treatment. John Hughes commented further: “Most of the men were uncertain about the range of cancers that affect men only, and one participant was surprised to hear that women cannot develop cancer of the prostate”.

John elaborated: ”Typically, according to the men who participated in this study, men living in Scotland would encourage friends to have a laugh, a joke and a pint, rather than share their emotions or fears about the effects of male cancer with each other.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the participants in the study also confirmed that women were far more likely to seek help with health related problems, and were far better at talking to their friends about their concerns, compared to Scottish men.

However, the study did show some hope for Scottish men. John Hughes explained: “In spite of a generalised conception of Scottish men as unable to talk about their health concerns, participants in the focus groups were actually extremely open to talking to each other about their emotions, health, well-being and fears about male cancer, and they welcomed the opportunity to do so with other men like themselves.”

“Men do talk in their own cultural environs and participants in this study reacted positively and empathetically to hearing about stories of other men who had been diagnosed with, and recovered from cancer. For example, hearing about one prostate cancer survivor’s personal story of the effects of living with and beating prostate cancer was enough to encourage every participant in this study to confirm that they would attend for prostate screening if they needed to.”

Martin Docherty from Cahonas Scotland said: “The study has presented us with extremely valuable information and confirms that much more specific work needs to be done to target and educate Scottish men from deprived areas about male cancers. There are still lots of barriers to be broken down, but what comes out loud and clear is that men can talk to one another about cancer but they require the right environment to be able to achieve this.”

The charity, Cahonas Scotland, developed from the recognition that although male cancer awareness was slowly growing, there was no real Scottish focus.

Martin concluded: “This research emphasises the importance for our charity to work in partnership with other health organisations to raise the profile of male cancers, specifically amongst deprived communities, and help to turn around Scotland’s poor health record. We now know we need a much more targeted approach for certain communities in order to break down stigma and deal specifically with Scottish cultural attitudes that are preventing men understanding and dealing appropriately with male cancers.

“It is now our intention to further develop this pilot study into a larger piece of research work which ensures Scottish men are better equipped to deal with early signs of male cancers.”

Professor Alan Gilloran, Vice Principal at Queen Margaret University, said: ”This type of work emphasises the relevance of the University’s research in tackling some of the most pressing needs of society and also in its goal of improving the quality of people’s lives.”



The report ‘Men, masculinities and male cancer awareness: a preliminary study’ is available from Martin Docherty, National Secretary, Cahonas Scotland  online   T:0141 280 0122  M: 07796865621 /  or Lynne Russell, Press and PR Officer, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, E: , T: 0131 474 0000, M: 07711 011239.

Project aim:

The aim of this project was to explore Scottish men’s awareness of ‘male cancer’ specifically and to examine the relationship between the lived experience of masculinities and the meanings that men attribute to health and well-being, healthcare providers and services and male cancers.  Data were be generated from four focus group meetings with a diversity of men from across Scotland, focussing on areas of particularly high incidences of male cancers specifically, and poor health records generally (Glasgow, Edinburgh and West Dunbartonshire).  Specifically, the research addressed the following questions:

  • What does being a man living in Scotland mean to participants?
  • What do Scottish men understand ‘male cancer’ to mean?
  • Does being a man impact on awareness of specific cancers, cancer risks and cancer screening services?
  • What are the most effective means of raising men’s awareness of male cancers?

Cahonas Scotland: Who we will help.

  • Increase the availability of information and support services geared to the needs of men living with cancer and life limiting disease
  • Help educate the public in matters relating to male cancers, reducing discrimination and stigma from the cancer experience
  • Relieve hardship, distress and suffering of men experiencing cancer and life limiting disease.
  • Listen to the experiences of men throughout Scotland to make sure our information and future activities help bring about real positive change in Male Cancer Awareness.

Cahonas Scotland’s vision:

Working in partnership, Cahonas Scotland aims to make sure that men in Scotland, particularly those most at risk of significant health inequalities, have open access to information. Our materials and our work will be both accessible and effective ensuring that men throughout Scotland are no longer embarrassed to confront their health issues.

Cahonas Scotland is a Registered Scottish Charity SC040786


For further media information please contact Lynne Russell, Press and PR Officer, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, tel: 0131 474 0000, mob: 07711 011239, Email:



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