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June is Men’s Health Month, a month-long observation and awareness campaign of the issues related to health in men of every age, genetic disposition, and background. Given that men are much less likely to get regular medical checkups than women, it’s important for everyone to be involved with educating the men in their lives about the health issues that can affect them.
In the interest of supporting awareness around men’s health, we’ve put together some information about the top three cancers that affect men the most.
Listed as the most common cancer in men by the CDC, nearly a quarter of a million men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year alone according to the American Cancer Society. Compared with other cancers, prostate cancer spreads relatively slowly, and if caught in time, it is treatable. In fact, many men who develop prostate cancer live for a long time.
That said, more can be done to prevent prostate cancer, or at least catch it in the early stages. The most important aspect is getting regular checkups from your family physician. Although recommendations vary, in general men who have a family history of the disease should be screened for prostate cancer.
There are also potential environmental and behavioral risk factors that can make men more likely to develop prostate cancer. Obesity has been linked to the disease, as has eating certain foods such as red meat, dairy products, and foods high in saturated fats. Also, at least two studies have shown a link between asbestos and prostate cancer.
Although fewer men develop it, lung cancer kills more men than prostate cancer each year. The vast majority of lung cancer cases are brought on by environmental factors, particularly smoking. Other environmental risk factors that can lead to lung cancer include radon and asbestos, both of which can be detected and mitigated.
One big danger with lung cancer is metastasis, or spreading of the disease to other parts of the body such as the lymph nodes. Catching the cancer before it metastasizes is a big part of ensuring a successful recover. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that anyone who currently smokes or who has smoked regularly within the last fifteen years get screened for lung cancer on an annual basis.
Colorectal (or colon) cancer is the third most common type of cancer in men, and like lung cancer, it also kills more men each year than prostate cancer. In addition to age and genetic disposition, the risk of developing prostate cancer includes a number of diet-related factors such as not eating enough fruits and vegetables – which contain fiber to help the proper functioning of the colon and rectum – and obesity. Asbestos has also been linked to colon cancer in at least one study.
Like other cancers, a large part of successfully treating colorectal cancer depends on early detection. Polyps, or abnormal growths, in the intestinal tract can be discovered early and removed before they turn cancerous. Since more than 90% of colon cancer cases occur in people more than 50 years old, it’s advisable that men over that age be screened on a regular basis.
Help Men Fight Cancer
As with many diseases, there are a number of things that men can do to prevent or fight cancer:
- Get regular check-ups and ask your physician about risk factors and whether you should be screened for these or other cancers
- Follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly
- Avoid unhealthy habits such as smoking, overeating, or excessive use of drugs and alcohol
- Check your daily environment for potentially harmful substances, such as asbestos, radon, or toxic materials
Although there is never a guarantee that a man won’t develop cancer, following these guidelines can certainly help reduce the overall number of cancer cases in men each year.