Pesky Partners Save Lives

When it comes to prostate cancer, a nagging wife or significant other just might save your life

Men who are married are more likely to live longer than single ones, researchers say. In fact, a recent 40-year study of Japanese-American men found that being married was a key predictor of long life. (See 9 indictors of long life.)

Could one reason for this be the dreaded nagging spouse? Or, put another way, does ‘encouragement’ from a partner to schedule important medical screenings actually save lives?

According to a University of Michigan study, men who live on their own are less likely than those living with a spouse or a partner to be screened for prostate cancer, even if they have a family history of the disease.

The study, published in Cancer Epidemiology, looked at 2,447 Caucasian men ages 40 years to 79 years from Minnesota. These men were questioned on their family history of prostate cancer, concern about getting prostate cancer and marital status.

Not surprisingly, the findings suggested that men who were worried about prostate cancer were more likely to get screened. And this also held true for those who had a family history of the disease; these men were twice as likely go for a screening.

However the likelihood to be screened dropped if these men lived alone. In fact, men who weren’t married or living with a significant other were 40 per cent less likely to have a screen, which generally involves a PSA or digital rectal exam.

“In terms of motivating people to get screened, there may be benefit in targeting wives or significant others as well as men,” said lead author Lauren P. Wallner, M.P.H., a graduate research associate at the University of Michigan.

And while this study was conducted in the US, similar findings may also hold true in Canada. According to a Globe and Mail report, the Prostate Cancer Research Foundation of Canada recently asked 500 men and 500 women over the age of 40 across Canada who it was that booked the doctor’s appointments in the family.

“Only about half of the men we surveyed booked their own annual physicals,” Greg Sarney, the foundation’s vice-president of marketing, told the Globe.

“We also found that 85 per cent of women remind the men in their lives to schedule their annual physicals. They’re obviously the ones staying on top of it.”

Prostate cancer in Canada

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian men, and it affects about one in six men. About 24,600 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010 according to Prostate Cancer Canada. (This does not include cases that go undiagnosed due to men’s unwillingness to go for annual check-ups.)

Prostate cancer is a leading cause of death among men, but if caught early, the odds of beating it are good. In fact, over 90 per cent of prostate cancer cases are curable if detected and treated in their earliest stages.

While its exact cause is unknown, the disease is thought to develop as a result of dietary, environmental and heredity factors. Symptoms include slow or painful urination, blood or pus in the urine, painful ejaculation and pain in the lower back or abdomen, pelvis or upper thighs.


For more information, visit Prostate Cancer Canada. Read the study abstract.

Sources: The Prostate Cancer Research Foundation of Canada; American Association for Cancer Research; Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention; Canadian Cancer Society; Globe and Mail.


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