It might have helped the Victorians build an empire, but having a stiff upper lip could be putting Britons in mortal danger from cancer, researchers claim.
A study by international experts suggests British stoicism may help explain differences in cancer survival between the UK and other high-income countries.
People in Britain were said to be more likely than others to avoid bothering their doctor over symptoms they find embarrassing and time-wasting.
As a result, cancer sufferers were less likely to be treated at an early stage when there is a greater chance of a cure.
Dr Lindsay Forbes, from King's College London, one of the lead authors of the research published in the British Journal of Cancer, said: "The UK stood out in this study. A high proportion of people said that not wanting to waste the doctor's time and embarrassment might stop them going to the doctor with a symptom that might be serious.
"The traditional British 'stiff upper lip' could be preventing people from seeing their doctor."
The scientists, from a collaboration called the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership, previously compared cancer survival in a number of developed countries including the UK.
For lung, breast, bowel and ovarian cancers diagnosed between 1995 and 2007, Australia, Canada, Sweden and Norway had the best survival rates.
Denmark and the UK had the lowest, despite all the countries having similarly good cancer registration systems and access to health care.
One year survival for people with lung cancer was 30% in the UK compared with 44% in Sweden.