Take on the odds—these steps may lower your cancer risk
Preventing cancer might not be something guys think about every day. But considering the impact cancer can have on their quality of life, it probably should be!
About 38.5% of men will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime.
Eat well and exercise
According to Daniel Pucheril, MD, a cancer specialist with Kettering Health, the most important prevention strategies are related to diet. “My advice to men is that they maintain a healthy weight and follow a diet that has an emphasis on vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. I encourage patients to avoid foods that contain a lot of carbohydrates. Exercise is very important as well—research shows it can reduce your risk for 13 different types of cancer.”
Dr. Pucheril adds that men who smoke should quit as soon as possible—for their own health and the health of those around them.
Know your risk and get tested
Finally, men need to know their personal cancer risk, which is affected by factors such as age, race, and family history. “For example, if you have two first-degree relatives who were diagnosed with prostate cancer, you are five times as likely to get prostate cancer,” Dr. Pucheril says.
The most common type of cancer in men. Nearly 12% of men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.
Who is at risk? Risk increases with a person’s age. Most prostate cancers are found in men over the age of 65. Having one or more close relatives with prostate cancer also increases a man’s risk. African-American men are more likely to develop prostate cancer than men of other races
Early detection The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test is a screening test for prostate cancer. Experts do not agree on who should have the PSA test, since it sometimes leads to unnecessary treatment. Starting at age 50, talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of PSA testing so you can decide if it is the right choice for you. If you are African-American or have a father or brother who had prostate cancer before age 65, talk to your doctor by age 45.
The second most common type of cancer in men and the leading cause of cancer death in men. About 7% of men (smokers and non-smokers) will be diagnosed with lung cancer in their lifetime.
Who is at risk? About eight out of 10 lung cancer deaths are thought to result from smoking. People who don’t smoke can develop lung cancer. If you are a smoker, ask a health care provider to help you quit. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. Avoid second-hand smoke.
Early detection If you are at high risk for lung cancer, talk to your health care provider about whether getting yearly low-dose CT scans is right for you. This test may detect lung cancer early when it is easier to treat.
The third most common type of cancer in men. Approximately four percent of men will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer at some point during their lifetime.
Who is at risk? Your risk for colon cancer may be higher if you have:
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- A personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps
- A genetic syndrome, such as familial adenomatous polyposis
Early detection Colon cancer almost always starts with a polyp—a small growth on the lining of the colon or rectum. It is important to find and remove these polyps before they become cancerous, and screening tests can help. Ask your doctor about being screened beginning at age 50, unless you are considered to be at higher risk. Tests include colonoscopy, blood tests, or stool tests.
The most serious form of skin cancer. About two percent of men will be diagnosed with melanoma in their lifetime.
Who is at risk? The primary risk factor for melanoma is exposure to ultraviolet light, including sunlight and tanning beds. Other risk factors include:
- A family history of melanoma
- Fair skin, freckling, and light hair (which increase the risk of sunburns)
- A tendency to develop moles on the skin, especially irregular or large moles
Be aware of all moles and spots on your skin, and report any changes to a health care provider right away.
If you are at increased risk for melanoma, consider having a skin cancer check annually, whether from your primary care doctor or a dermatologist.