Men’s Health Myths: Debunked
Navin Khosla has been a registered Pharmacist since 1995. He obtained his B.Pharm Degree in Pharmacy from the London School of Pharmacy, University of London in 1994, and has built a wealth of experience by working across the community pharmacy retail sector.
The “facts” you might want to reconsider about men’s health
Our personal health is a very private matter but is also so important that we can’t afford not to talk about it. Men’s health in particular is a topic that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. Many men are uncomfortable discussing their health issues and are reluctant to visit a doctor unless they feel seriously unwell. Unfortunately, by avoiding discussion about men’s health, numerous myths and misunderstandings have become mainstream ideas.
In order to debunk these men’s health myths, we’ve addressed some of the most common misconceptions regarding men’s health, explaining why and how they’re wrong, and what we should be doing about the health issue in question. Whether you’re worried about hair loss or erectile dysfunction, prepare yourself for a crash course in men’s health.
These are the most searched men’s health myths, and we’re debunking them one by one:
Debunking 20 men’s health myths
Myth 1. “Weaker erections aren’t a sign of erectile dysfunction”
Annual searches: 68,600
While erectile dysfunction mainly pertains to the ability to achieve and maintain an erection, it also refers to erections that are weaker than they used to be. However, by simply changing up your lifestyle habits to be healthier, including an improved diet and more exercise, there’s a fair chance that you’ll be able to improve the strength of your erections.
Myth 2. “Shaving makes your hair grow thicker”
Annual searches: 68,400
This is a very popular myth, particularly in school when boys start developing beards and facial hair. Shaving does nothing more than cut the hair above the skin, reducing its length. As hair is thicker closer to the root than at the tips, freshly cut hair can feel more bristly, and as this shorter hair is more rigid than longer heavier hair, it can appear darker or more full-bodied. However, your hair is not actually any thicker and these perceived effects will lessen with time as the hair regrows.
Myth 3. “Men can’t get breast cancer”
Annual searches: 61,200
While it is very rare for men to get breast cancer, it is not impossible. Breast cancer usually affects men over the age of 60, but can affect younger men in extremely rare cases. The cancer develops in the very small amount of breast tissue that men have behind their nipples.
Symptoms for breast cancer in men include the nipple being turned inwards, fluid discharge from the nipple, and bumps in your armpits, as well as swelling, rashes and hard skin around the nipple. Finding a hard lump in the area, which is usually painless and is in a fixed position, is another telltale sign of breast cancer. While breast cancer in men is extremely rare, you should probably visit your doctor if you have any of these symptoms. Better safe than sorry!
Myth 4. “Hats cause hair loss”
Annual searches: 52,100
The idea that hats cause hair loss is fairly widespread, and it seems like a logical presumption. By wearing a hat you’re surely suffocating your hair, right?
Incorrect. Your hair is perfectly happy being covered by a hat, and there is no connection between donning your cap and going bald. You may have read that repeated friction against your scalp will cause a bare patch, but for this to happen you’d need to be wearing a hat so tight that it would be seriously uncomfortable. If this is the case, you probably just need a new hat.
Myth 5. “Protein has to be consumed immediately after a workout”
Annual searches: 51,000
The best way to consume protein is gradually throughout the day, as a part of a balanced diet. Lean proteins, fish and poultry are especially good sources of protein that you should try to incorporate into your diet. Protein supplements are also an option, but remember that they are there to add protein alongside your regular intake, as opposed to replacing it entirely.
That said, there is a small time window of about 20 minutes after a long workout where recovery drinks can be a great benefit in aiding the repair, recovery and building of new muscle. However, these drinks should be a combination of protein and carbohydrate, with three or four parts carb to every one part protein, with ten to twenty grams of protein in total.
Myth 6. “Consuming more protein means you’ll gain more muscle”
Annual searches: 50,000
Unfortunately, the amount of protein you consume, either through food or protein supplements, does not directly translate into greater muscle mass. Without weight training, that protein will not help your muscles develop, and you’ll simply be overeating, and potentially become overweight.
If taken in conjunction with a well-rounded exercise regimen, including some weight training, increased protein intake should help you gain muscle mass. However, you’ll see no gains without putting the work in.
Myth 7. “Urinating frequently, and experiencing a little discomfort while doing so, is just a part of growing old”
Annual searches: 41,200
As you age, especially once you pass the age of 60, you may find that you visit the bathroom more frequently than you used to. The older we get, the less our body produces a hormone that helps us to retain fluid. So, from that standpoint, the myth seems to hold true.
However, there are multiple other reasons why you might be urinating more often, and any discomfort while doing so should always be investigated. For instance, you could be suffering from bladder irritation from a urinary tract infection, the presence of bladder stones, or abnormal growths.
Myth 8. “You won’t get prostate cancer if it doesn’t run in your family”
Annual searches: 32,400
While it is true that if you have a family history of prostate cancer then you may be more likely to develop it yourself, you can still develop prostate cancer if you’ve no family history of it. In fact, most prostate cancers occur in men who don’t have any family history of the disease.
Myth 9. “Man flu”
Annual searches: 9,530
Often used as a point of humour, particularly by women when a man is complaining about feeling unwell, the concept of “man flu” has become a little confused. To begin, there is no separate illness that men get which women are immune to. Flu is flu whether you’re a man or a woman.
However, there does seem to be some truth to the concept, as men can experience more severe symptoms from the same illness. This is due to men having weaker immune systems, meaning that illnesses like flu can hit them especially hard.
Myth 10. “Men can’t get post-natal depression”
Annual searches: 8,690
This is untrue. Men can also experience post-natal depression once their child is born. There are many reasons why new dads can become depressed as the dynamic of their relationship with their partner will have changed a lot.
For example, increased financial pressure, lack of sleep, and worrying about the child’s wellbeing and future are all reasons why a new father might feel depressed. Dads can also feel guilty towards the mother as she recuperates from childbirth and breastfeeds the child.
Myth 11. “You don’t need prostate cancer checkups if you don’t have symptoms”
Annual searches: 7,960
The problem here is that prostate cancer can be easy to miss. If caught early, prostate cancer has a relatively high recovery rate, so it’s important to get routinely tested. This doesn’t mean a lot of testing, only making sure you go for a test at regular intervals. Having two years between tests is recommended as a good enough frequency to catch the cancer in its earlier stages.
Myth 12. “Erectile dysfunction is just in your head”
Annual searches: 7,120
This is a very unhealthy and incorrect view which puts the blame for erectile dysfunction on the person who is experiencing it. There are plenty of causes of erectile dysfunction, ranging from the narrowing of the blood vessels in the penis, high blood pressure and hormone problems, to smoking, high alcohol intake and being overweight.
Things you can do to help with erectile dysfunction include taking daily exercise, eating a healthy and balanced diet, limiting your smoking and alcohol intake, and finding ways to reduce stress and anxiety.
Myth 13. “Hairdryers cause hair loss”
Annual searches: 6,210
When it comes to drying our hair there are two main options: using a towel or a hairdryer. Both are perfectly safe for your hair if done properly, but you can cause some hair loss with either option depending on your method. For example, you should gently pat your hair dry if using a towel to avoid rubbing that can damage your hair.
Hairdryers are generally the safer option, so long as you don’t use a very high heat and only use it in short bursts, as long-term exposure to high heat can damage your hair and scalp. Both methods can be combined for the best result by gently patting down your hair with a towel to absorb most of the water, before using a hairdryer to finish up.
Myth 14. “Hair loss is inevitable”
Annual searches: 4,950
This one is a half-truth. Many people will experience balding and hair loss, much of which might seem inevitable. However, there are many things we can do to help prevent this from happening, but it’s just not talked about very much. There are a few simple things you can do such as trying to avoid stress, eating healthily, taking regular exercise, and avoiding drugs and alcohol. There are also several medications, such as finasteride and minoxidil, which can help you keep your hair on your head.
Myth 15. “Alzheimer’s is an old man’s disease”
Annual searches: 4,450
While it is true that Alzheimer’s mostly affects older people, around 5% of those diagnosed each year are under the age of 65. If you develop Alzheimer’s before you reach 65, then it is referred to as early-onset or young-onset Alzheimer’s and usually occurs in people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. As Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of dementia, developing it earlier in life can have a devastating effect on your life and ability to support your dependents.
Myth 16. “The most common cancer in men is prostate cancer”
Annual searches: 3,690
This is not a universal truth, as it appears to vary from country to country. According to Cancer Research UK, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, whereas the American Cancer Society states that prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men in the USA after skin cancers. Either way, it is a very common cancer in men but isn’t necessarily the most common.
Myth 17. “Baldness is inherited from your mother’s father”
Annual searches: 2,940
This is not true. While you certainly can inherit baldness from either of your mother’s parents, you are equally capable of inheriting it from your father’s parents. In fact, most baldness is thought to be genetic, although there are some outside factors that can increase your rate of hair loss.
Myth 18. “Your workout should hurt, or else it’s not effective”
Annual searches: 2,570
This is a potentially dangerous myth that should not be taken to heart if you want to exercise safely. While pain is certainly a factor in many people’s workouts and is perfectly natural in some exercises, it should not be taken as a sign of a good workout. By thinking of pain as a necessary part of your exercise routine, you could be putting your body through dangerous levels of strain which could lead to injury.
Remember to approach exercise with gradual increases in intensity, and don’t jump straight into the deep end because the level you were at “didn’t hurt enough”. There are also plenty of pain-free exercises you can do which can have an incredibly positive effect on your health such as regular light cardio, which will help to keep you trim and strengthen your lungs.
Myth 19. “There’s something wrong with a man’s penis if it is curved”
Annual searches: 2,530
While there is a disease called Peyronie’s disease which causes men’s penises to be curved and can make having sex difficult, many penises are naturally curved and should be of no cause for concern. Penises come in all shapes and sizes, with many having a slight curvature in one direction or another.
So, unless you’re experiencing discomfort, erectile dysfunction, or if your penis has become curved where it previously wasn’t, then there’s probably no need to visit a doctor.
Myth 20. “All men snore”
Annual searches: 1,270
There is a common misconception that being male means that you will snore while asleep. This is untrue; there is no link between being male and snoring. Snoring is usually caused by a partial blockage of your airways while you sleep. There is a heightened chance of snoring if you are overweight or if you sleep on your back, as this can put additional pressure on your airways. You could try to change your sleeping position so that you sleep on your side, invest in a more supportive pillow to keep your airways open, or try to lose some weight if you are overweight.
There are several other things you can do to help you stop snoring, such as avoiding alcohol and cigarettes, and not taking sleeping pills. If you experience sudden gasping or choking noises during the night, and regularly feel drowsy during the day, you may have sleep apnoea. In this case, it is important to check with your doctor to see if you require any treatment as this can be a serious condition if not properly treated.
We wanted to create an extensive list of men’s health myths and debunk them one by one. To do this, we needed to find examples of men’s health myths as well as the necessary information to counter them.
We started by gathering articles on the subject and collating the myths that were mentioned. We then sorted them to remove any duplicate myths and formulated likely search terms that people might use to search for these health myths online. We then found which of these terms were searched the most, and ranked them according to search volume. We then wrote up explanations for why each myth was not factually correct, using source articles and reputable websites such as the NHS for information.