Did you know? Men are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer—and they’re also more likely to die from it. But why is that?
Well, researchers aren’t entirely sure. According to the American Cancer Society, 41 out of 100 men will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime, in comparison with 39 out of 100 women.
Some of that can be attributed to lifestyle-related risk factors such as smoking, heavy alcohol consumption and a sedentary lifestyle. Men are also more likely to work in settings that expose them to cancer-causing hazards, such as industrial chemicals.
But regardless of the cause, the fact that men are more likely to develop cancer exposes an important truth: Men need to take good care of themselves and practice prevention.
“While men may be more likely to develop cancer than women, there are still steps they can take to prevent cancer,” says Jeffrey Kovalic, MD, radiation oncologist with the Alice & Karl Kirkland Cancer Center. “It’s important for men to be aware of their health risks, particularly when it comes to cancer, and do what they can to protect their health.”
As we recognize Men’s Health Month this June, we thought it would be a good time to talk about four types of cancer common in men and what you can do to prevent them. Read on to get the facts.
4 Types of Cancer Common in Men
The American Cancer Society estimates that 970,250 American men will be diagnosed with cancer in 2021. While there are many different types of cancer, some are much more common than others.
When you think of men’s health and cancer, prostate cancer is probably what comes to mind. And for good reason. Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer among American men, second only to skin cancer. It’s also unique to men since it impacts the male anatomy.
In 2021, for example, nearly 250,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in the United States.
Risk for prostate cancer increases as a man ages, occurring most often in men over age 65. The condition is also more common among certain populations, including African American men and those of African ancestry.
Having a father or brother with prostate cancer is also an indicator of increased risk—the risk of those with a family history of the condition is double those who do not.
Skin cancer can impact anyone, but it’s been on the rise among men in recent years. Deaths from skin cancer, in particular, are higher in men than in women.
Why is that? Part of it is that men have a higher risk of developing a type of skin cancer known as melanoma, which is the most deadly type.
Men are also less likely to see a dermatologist for a skin check, a thorough skin examination performed by a medical provider. While it can be dangerous for anyone to neglect this type of screening, it’s especially so for men, since they often develop skin cancer on parts of the body that are difficult to see, like the scalp or back of the torso.
Skin cancer is caused by exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun, and it can impact anyone of any age, skin tone and ethnicity. It’s important to take steps to protect the skin, including wearing sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 on all exposed skin when outdoors.
It’s also important to keep an eye on your skin, paying particular attention to any new spots or spots that change over time.
This type of cancer is also common in men, with an estimated 119,100 new cases expected to be diagnosed in 2021.
While lung cancer commonly occurs in smokers, it’s not limited to those who smoke. Exposure to other chemicals and particles in the air can put any person at risk.
Still, though, smoking is the biggest risk factor for the condition. If you are a smoker, talk with your medical provider about whether you should have a lung cancer screening.
Lung cancer screening, performed through a low-dose CT scan, is recommended annually for those who are between the ages of 50 and 80, who smoke now or who have quit within the past 15 years, and who have a history of “heavy” smoking.
What does heavy smoking entail? It’s defined as 20 “pack years.” A pack year is smoking an average of one pack of cigarettes per day for one year. To have a 20-year pack history, a person would have smoked one pack a day for 20 years or two packs a day for 10 years.
The American Cancer Society estimates that 79,520 American men will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2021.
There’s good news, though. While colorectal cancer is incredibly common, it’s also incredibly preventable and treatable, particularly when found in its earliest stages.
That’s because colorectal cancer begins as what’s known as a “polyp.” In many cases, these precancerous polyps don’t develop into cancer, and when they do, it takes many years.
That means that many precancerous polyps can be detected—and removed—during routine screenings for colorectal cancer.
Experts recommend that most people now begin colorectal cancer screening at age 45. Your medical provider can recommend what type of screening you need and how often you should be screened, based on your unique health factors
How to Lower Your Risk of Cancer
What can you do to lower your risk of developing cancer? That starts (and ends) with some basic lifestyle changes:
- Stay physically active, aiming for 150 minutes of moderate activity each week.
- Fill your plate at meals and snacks with healthy foods, including lots of fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Limit your intake of red and processed meats, as well as excess salt and sugar.
- Get to and maintain a healthy weight, as advised by your medical provider.
- Don’t smoke, or quit if you do smoke.
- Prioritize getting enough quality sleep.
- Limit alcohol consumption to no more than two servings per day.
- Have regular cancer-specific screenings as recommended by your medical provider. This may include prostate-specific antigen testing for prostate cancer, full-body skin examinations for skin cancer, lung cancer screening for current or past smokers, and colonoscopies for colorectal cancer.
One other step you can take to protect your health from cancer and other health issues? Have regular checkups! Need a checkup? Find a provider today.