SINGLE men in Scotland are significantly less likely to take part in potentially a life-saving cancer check than men with partners, research today reveals.

It is estimated that three lives a year would be saved if the uptake of bowel screening among men who live alone could increased to the Scottish average, according to the findings of a major study of a thousand people aged over 50 in Scotland.

The initial results from the Healthy Ageing in Scotland (HAGIS) project will be unveiled at an international conference in Edinburgh today.

It found that 57.6 per cent of single men in the study group participated in the bowel screening programme, compared to 79.5 per cent of men who were married or live with partners.

Bowel screening is offered to all men and women aged 50 to 74 in Scotland to help detect and treat bowel cancer early.

Similarly low uptake was also found among the most deprived quarter of participants, and the researchers estimate that around three lives a year would also be saved if the uptake of bowel screening among that deprived cohort could be increased to the Scottish average.

The study has also collected data on breast screening uptake among women but the results are not yet available.

HAGIS is one of a network of long-term studies worldwide examining health, lifestyle and retirement planning trends among over-50s as part of efforts to plan for an ageing population.

Among the Scottish participants, 40 per cent said they expected to retire before the State Pension Age - which will be 66 from October 2020 and 67 by 2028. Of the remainder, half said they expected to retire at pension age and the other half - 30 per cent of over 50s - said they expect to work beyond pension age.

The majority of the participants (49 per cent) were enrolled in an occupational pension scheme, but 42 per cent said they had no pension arrangements in place except the state pension. The rest had either a private pension or an occupational and a private pension.

Professor David Bell, the lead investigator for HAGIS, said: "This is a relatively new phenomenon - people expecting to work beyond retirement age. Some of it might be that their health is better, but also that they've had a nasty surprise in terms of their pension planning.

"It's a reflection of the last 10 years and the very low interest rates over that time. If people haven't been saving enough and haven't taken advice, may have had a bit of a shock in terms of being told how much they'll have to save to get a decent pension."

The team at Stirling University are now seeking funding to expand to 7000 participants who will be interviewed every two years.