With November marking Men’s Health Awareness Month, it serves as a timely reminder to drive more conversations about the increasing prevalence of male cancers in South Africa, a trend supported by the findings of Old Mutual’s latest claim statistics.
According to the group’s personal cover claim statistics, 2020 saw a 6.5% increase in the overall number of cancer claims in men across all claim categories year on year. Cancer and tumours ranked as a leading illness within the severe illness category, second only to cardiovascular disorders.
“Our overall experience with cancer in males within the severe illness claim category shows that prostate and testicular cancer claims accounted for 17% of all cancer claims in 2020, with prostate cancer making up the lion’s share at 96%,” says John Kotze, Retail Protection Product Head at Old Mutual.
Global research reveals prostate cancer as the second most frequent of cancers that males suffer from after lung cancer, and the fifth leading cause of cancer death among men in 2020. In South Africa, the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) reports that one in 16 South African men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.
Prostate cancer is more likely to develop in men over forty, carrying a global average age at diagnosis of 66.This is supported by group claim figures in 2020, which showed that the majority of male cancer claimants in the severe illness category ranged between 20 and 69 years old, with an average age of 58.
Surprisingly, the group’s claims statistics also revealed a drop in the number of testicular cancer claims, which Kotze says could be a result of increased early detection of this type of cancer. However, he warns of a potential link between prostate and testicular cancer, as shown in a study by the American Society of Clinical Oncologywhich suggests that men with a history of testicular cancer may be at higher risk of developing prostate cancer in their lifetime.
“Men’s Health Awareness Month is a welcome reminder to men around the world to take better care of their health and their bodies,” says Kotze. “Although male cancers are seen as an illness usually associated with older men, it is important to remember that genes, family history and race are all risk factors that cannot be helped and may cause cancers to develop at an earlier age.”
While the prognosis for male cancers is good if diagnosed and treated early, the financial impact of managing an illness such as cancer is often overlooked.
“Cancer treatment and recovery can result in extended periods away from work, which can lead to a loss of income at a time when additional unforeseen costs are being incurred – such as the costs of rehabilitation and travel between treatment centres,” says Kotze. “This is why your financial health is an equally important consideration when it comes to pro-active health management.”
In 2020, Old Mutual paid out illness insurance claims to the value of R871 million. “In these times of great uncertainty, it is reassuring to know that while you may be unable to prevent severe illness from developing in future, you can take control of your financial outcomes with illness insurance, and help to ease the burden of recovery,” concludes Kotze.