Cancer affects men in all walks of life and doesn’t discriminate by age. One in two men will develop some type of cancer in his lifetime. Even for cancers typically diagnosed in later years, like lung cancer, prevention begins early.
Not Every Man Gets Prostate Cancer
For most men, prostate cancer has the highest awareness rate – and that’s a good thing. It’s the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men. However, many other forms of cancer are equally prevalent. The American Cancer Society estimates the leading sites of cancer in men are:
- Lung & Bronchus
- Urinary bladder
- Melanoma (skin cancer)
- Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
- Kidney & Renal pelvis
- Oral Cavity & pharynx
Reducing Your Risk
Lifestyle habits contribute to your future health, so limiting risky behaviors and jumpstarting good ones is extremely important. If you’re a man, statistics indicate you’re more likely to smoke, drink, and carry excess weight, all of which increase cancer risk.
You can take control of your health and reduce your cancer risk by following some simple guidelines.
Go see your doctor – regularly!
Men are notorious for a bad health habit: one in four doesn't see a doctor at least once a year. You should establish a relationship with your doctor and make appointments for regular physical exams and regular screenings.
Avoid tobacco in any form.
Lung cancer is responsible for the most cancer-related deaths in Texas and has one of the lowest survival rates. Only 17 percent of lung cancer patients live more than five years beyond their initial diagnosis. Cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco have been linked to 18 different forms of cancer. There is no safe tobacco product. In fact, cigar smokers who inhale are up to 11 times more likely to die from some cancers than nonsmokers.
Perform monthly testicular self-exams.
You should self-check your testicles for any pain, discomfort, or abnormal lumps monthly. Testicular cancer, commonly diagnosed in men ages 20 to 39, has been increasing for several decades. If treated early, testicular cancer patients have a 99 percent survival rate after five years.
Take care of your skin.
Check your skin once a month for any changes in moles or other marks that could be signs of skin cancer. If you notice any changes to your skin, tell your doctor right away. When you go outside, avoid long exposure to your skin and wear sunscreen at all times, not just during the summer.
Check your colon.
Colon cancer is the second-leading cancer killer of men and women combined, and is among the most difficult to detect because it lacks symptoms in early stages. Starting at age 50, you should discuss the most appropriate screening test with your physician. If you have a higher risk, based on your family history, your doctor may recommend starting screening earlier.
- Annual fecal occult blood tests (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical tests (FIT).
- Every three years – stool DNA test
- Every five years – a flexible sigmoidoscopy, virtual colonoscopy or a double-contrast barium enema.
- Every 10 years – a colonoscopy or every five years, a virtual colonoscopy.
Talk with your doctor about prostate screenings.
One in seven men will develop prostate cancer in his lifetime. Beginning at age 50, you should discuss prostate cancer screenings with your physician. If you’re at high risk (African Americans and men with a family history of prostate cancer before age 65), ask your doctor if screenings are appropriate beginning at age 45. If you have immediate family members with prostate cancer, you should discuss screenings with a physician beginning at age 40.
- The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test measures levels of a protein produced by the prostate. Higher PSA levels indicate a higher likelihood you have cancer but other reasons may elevate PSA levels.
- The DRE (digital rectal exam) also tests for prostate cancer.
If you’re overweight, you have an increased risk of colon, kidney, and esophageal cancer (not to mention other non-cancerous health issues). The American Cancer Society recommends men aim for 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise at least five times each week. A moderate level of physical activity will cause you to break a sweat and increase your heart rate yet still allow you to carry on a conversation.
Make sure your diet includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains but limits your intake of red meat or high-fat foods. A high-fat diet and obesity raise your risk for numerous cancers (and many other health issues).
Limit alcohol consumption.
You should limit your alcohol intake to the equivalent of no more than one drink per day. The Centers for Disease Control has shown alcohol consumption increases your risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon.
Avoid unsafe sexual practices.
The human papillomavirus has been linked to cervical cancer, but is not exclusive to women. According to a recent study, one in two sexually active men has the HPV infection, which can lead to anal, penile, and head and neck cancers. Having multiple sexual partners or unprotected sex increases your risk. If you are 26 or younger, you should consider getting the HPV vaccine.