What You Don’t Know Can Kill You
By Arvind Bhandari, M.D.
The Pasadena Citizen, Pasadena
Men in their 20s and 30s might feel invincible, but lack
of knowledge and lifestyle choices could greatly increase their chances of
developing cancer. The dangers of tobacco, overeating, heavy drinking, and a
sedentary lifestyle are well documented, and new research indicates that unsafe
sex is responsible for many infections that could lead to cancer.
The reluctance of many men to visit a doctor or undergo
annual physical examinations prevents their best chances for early cancer
detection and effective treatment. More than 25 percent of men have not visited
a doctor within the past year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and
The following cancers can either occur in young adult men
or are caused by harmful habits that typically begin in the late teens and
According to a recent study, half of American men ages 18
to 70 have the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes warts, and some types
of head, neck, penile, and anal cancers. HPV is linked to 90 percent of anal
cancers. Although HPV-related cancers are increasing, they are highly treatable
if diagnosed early. Abstinence and safe sex can help prevent HPV-related
cancers, and HPV vaccines are an effective way to prevent infection.
Early treatment is the key to overcoming testicular
cancer, the most common cancer found in men ages 15 to 34. Testicular cancer
rates are now twice as high for white American men as they were 40 years ago,
and the rates for African American men are beginning to rise. Although the
disease is essentially unpreventable, more than 95 percent of patients are
cancer-free after completing treatment, especially if caught early.
Self-examinations and consultations with physicians can ensure early detection.
Lung cancer is responsible for the most cancer-related
deaths in Texas. Tobacco smoke is the leading cause of lung cancer cases even
though the effects of the disease might not appear for years. Despite decades
of warnings about the dangers of tobacco, research surveys reveal that smoking
prevalence is highest among people ages 25 to 44 years.
A high-fat diet, obesity, diabetes, and family history of
the disease raise the likelihood of developing colon cancer, which is the
second-leading cancer killer of men and is among the most difficult to detect,
because it lacks symptoms in early stages. Men may decrease the risk of
colorectal cancer through regular exercise and a healthy diet.
Seven Things Young Adult Men Should Do Now to Prevent
1. Exercise regularly.
2. Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables,
and whole grains while limiting intake of red meat or high-fat foods.
3. Avoid tobacco smoke and using any form of tobacco.
4. Avoid heavy consumption of alcohol. Men should either
abstain from alcohol or limit alcohol use to the equivalent of no more than two
beers a day.
5. Avoid unsafe sexual practices.
6. Be aware of changes or unusual symptoms that could
point to a problem.
7. Participate in regular physical examinations and
Editor’s note: Dr. Arvind Bhandari is a medical
oncologist at Texas Oncology–Sugar Land, 1350 First Colony Blvd. in Sugar Land.
Dr. Thomas T. Hoang is a urologist at Texas Urology Specialists-Memorial
Urology Associates-Memorial City, 915 Gessner, Suite 720, and Texas Urology
Specialists-Memorial Urology Associates-Willowbrook, 13300 Hargrave Road, Suite
190. Texas Oncology and Texas Urology Specialists have practices throughout the
Greater Houston area, including specialists in medical oncology, radiation
oncology, gynecologic oncology, urology, and breast care.