June is Men’s Health Month, an annual opportunity to encourage the men in your life (including yourselves, men!) to take control of their health. And as cancer screenings dropped dramatically during the pandemic, this year our focus is on urging men to get back on track with their cancer screenings.
Cancer is a scary topic and one that most of us don’t like to think about, but being informed can protect you. There are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing cancers or to detect it in its early stages when it is much easier to treat. That’s why we’ve put together this list of the most common cancers for men (colorectal, prostate, lung and skin cancer) and what you can do to mitigate your risk. Read on; it could save your life!
Quick Facts About Prostate cancer
Prostate cancer is the second-most common cancer among men after skin cancer, and one that usually develops after the age of 65. You are considered at high-risk of developing this disease if one or more of your close relatives was diagnosed with prostate cancer, or if you are African-American or a Caribbean man of African descent.
When you should start scheduling screenings:
- Age 50 if you are not in a high-risk group
- Age 45 if you are in a high risk group
- Age 40 if you have a first-degree relative who was diagnosed at an early age
Your healthcare provider will test you with the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test, and may also conduct a digital rectal exam as part of the screening.
Quick Facts About Colorectal cancer
Colorectal cancer develops in the colon or rectum. The first sign of this cancer is the appearance of a polyp, a small growth on the lining of the colon or rectum. Steps you can take to mitigate your risk include maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, and avoiding consuming too much red and processed meats, smoking, or heavy alcohol use. People with a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps are considered at high-risk for this disease.
When you should start scheduling screenings:
As always, early detection of cancer before it’s had the chance to grow and spread can increase your odds of beating it. You should start regular screenings:
- Age 45 for everyone
- Seniors who are in good health and have a life expectancy of over 10 years should continue screening up until the age of 75
- Between 76 and 85, doctors can continue to recommend screenings based on your life expectancy, overall health, prior screening history, and personal preference
- People over the age of 85 no longer need to schedule colorectal cancer screenings
There are several kinds of screenings medical professionals can use to detect signs of colon cancer. Testing your stool, using a fecal immunochemical test (FIT), or multi-targeted stool DNA test (MT-sDNA) are options, but depending on your risk factors, your healthcare provider may recommend a visual examination of your colon and rectum. These tests include procedures such as a flexible sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy, but there are others. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine which test is right for you.
Quick Facts About Lung Cancer
Though smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, many don’t realize you can develop the disease even if you’ve never touched or smelled a cigarette. According the American Cancer Society, lung cancer in people with no history of smoking has been linked to exposure to radon, second hand smoke, air pollution, or other factors. Additionally, exposure to asbestos, diesel exhaust or other chemicals can also cause lung cancer. A very small percentage of lung cancers develop in people with no known risk factors for the disease, but these are rare. The best way to prevent it is to avoid smoking or being around others who smoke. If you or someone you love is struggling to quit, reach out for help! You can find resources here.
When you should get screened:
The American Cancer Society recommends regular lung cancer screenings for high-risk individuals, including men between the age of 50 and 80 with a history of smoking. If you are in this category, talk to your healthcare provider about scheduling a yearly low-dose CT scan (LDCT).
Quick Facts About Skin Cancer
The culprit for most skin cancers is exposure to ultraviolent (UV) rays, from the sun or man-made sources such as tanning beds. The best way to reduce your risk of skin cancer is to limit your exposure from the sun, by staying in the shade during the day when its rays are most powerful, and wearing sunscreen, wide-brimmed hats, and long-sleeve shirts). Fair-skinned people, and those with a close family member who developed skin cancer, are considered at high-risk for this disease.
How to screen for skin cancer:
Keep track of all the moles in your body, and make sure to tell your healthcare provider if you notice any changes. Ask about scheduling a skin test during your regular check-up.
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death globally, accounting for one in six deaths worldwide. The good news is that by taking steps to prevent or detect cancer early, you can greatly reduce your odds of beating it. So this Men’s Health Month, make sure you’re arming yourself with the knowledge that could help save your life, and talk to your healthcare provider about getting screened.