Objective: To explore whether there are gender differences in the number of GP recorded cases, the probability of survival and consulting pattern prior to diagnosis amongst patients with three non-sex-specific cancers.
Design: Cross sectional study.
Setting: UK primary care.
Subjects: 12,189 patients aged 16 years or over diagnosed with colorectal cancer (CRC), 11,081 patients with lung cancer and 4,352 patients with malignant melanoma, with first record of cancer diagnosis during 1997-2006.
Main outcome measures: Cancer cases recorded in primary care; probability of survival following diagnosis; and number of GP contacts within the 24 months preceding diagnosis.
Results: From 1997-2006, overall rates of GP recorded CRC and lung cancer cases recorded were higher in men than in women, but rates of malignant melanoma were higher in women than in men. Gender differences in survival were small; 49% of men and 53% of women survived at least 5 years following CRC diagnosis; 9% of men and 12% of women with lung cancer, and 77% of men and 86% of women with malignant melanoma. The adjusted male to female relative hazard ratio of death in all patients was 1.20 (95%CI 1.13-1.30), 1.24 (95%CI 1.16-1.33) and 1.73 (95%CI 1.51-2.00) for CRC, lung cancer and malignant melanoma respectively. However, gender differences in the relative risk were much smaller amongst those who died during follow-up. For each cancer, there was little evidence of gender difference in the percentage who consulted and the number of GP contacts made within 24 months prior to diagnosis.
Conclusions: This study found that patterns of consulting prior to cancer diagnosis differed little between two genders, providing no support for the hypothesis that gender differences in survival are explained by gender differences in consultation for more serious illness, and suggests the need for a more critical view of gender and consultation.