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Cancer Facts for Men

The cancers that most frequently affect men are prostate, colon, lung, and skin cancers. Knowing about these cancers and how they can be prevented or found early (when they are small and easier to treat) can save your life.

Prostate cancer

The chance of getting prostate cancer goes up as a man gets older. Most prostate cancers are found in men over the age of 65. For reasons that are still unknown, African American men are more likely than white men to develop prostate cancer. Having one or more close relatives with prostate cancer also increases a man’s risk of having prostate cancer.

What you can do

The American Cancer Society recommends that men make an informed decision with their doctor about whether to be tested for prostate cancer. Research has not yet proven that the benefits of testing outweigh the harms of testing and treatment. The American Cancer Society believes that men should not be tested without learning about what we know and don’t know about the risks and possible benefits of testing and treatment.

Starting at age 50, talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of testing so you can decide if getting tested is the right choice for you. If you are African American or have a father or brother who had prostate cancer before age 65, you should have this talk with your doctor starting at age 45. If you decide to be tested, you should have the PSA blood test with or without a rectal exam. How often you are tested will depend on your PSA level.

Colon cancer

Any adult can have colorectal cancers (cancers of the colon and rectum), but most of these cancers are found in people age 50 or older. People with a personal or family history of this cancer, or who have polyps in their colon or rectum, or those with inflammatory bowel disease are more likely to have colon cancer. Also, eating a diet mostly of high-fat foods (especially from animal sources), being overweight, smoking, and being inactive can make a person more likely to have colon cancer.

What you can do

Colon cancer almost always starts with a polyp – a small growth on the lining of the colon or rectum. Testing can save lives by finding polyps before they become cancer. If pre-cancerous polyps are removed, colon cancer can be prevented. Eating a low-fat diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables may also make you less likely to have this cancer.

The American Cancer Society recommends one of the following tests for all people starting at age 50:

Tests that find polyps and cancer

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years*, or
  • Colonoscopy every 10 years, or
  • Double-contrast barium enema every 5 years*, or
  • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years*

Tests that primarily find cancer

  • Yearly fecal occult blood test (FOBT)**, or
  • Yearly fecal immunochemical test (FIT)**, or
  • Stool DNA test (sDNA), interval uncertain (this test is currently not available)**

* If the test is positive, a colonoscopy should be done.
** The multiple stool take-home test should be used. One test done by the doctor is not adequate for testing. A colonoscopy should be done if the test is positive.

The tests that are designed to find both early cancer and polyps should be your first choice if these tests are available to you and you are willing to have one of these more invasive tests. Talk to your doctor about which test is best for you.

Lung cancer

Smoking is the cause for more than 80% of all lung cancers, but people who don’t smoke can also have lung cancer.

What you can do

Lung cancer is one of the few cancers that can often be prevented simply by not smoking. If you are a smoker, ask your doctor or nurse to help you quit. If you don’t smoke, don’t start, and avoid breathing in other people’s smoke. If your friends and loved ones are smokers, help them quit. For help quitting, call your American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 to find out how we can help improve your chances of quitting for good.

Certain men at high risk for lung cancer may want to talk to a doctor about whether getting a low-dose CT scan to screen for early lung cancer is right for them. Screening may benefit adults who are active or former smokers between the ages of 55 and 74 who have no signs of lung cancer and who have a 30 pack-year smoking history. (A pack-year is 1 pack of cigarettes per day per year. One pack per day for 30 years or 2 packs per day for 15 years would both be 30 pack-years.) You should discuss the benefits, limitations, and risks of lung cancer screening with a doctor before testing is done.

Skin cancer

Anyone who spends time in the sun can have skin cancer. People with fair skin, especially those with blond or red hair, are more likely to get skin cancer than people with darker coloring. People who have had a close family member with melanoma and those who had severe sunburns before the age of 18 are more likely to get skin cancer.

What you can do

Most skin cancers can be prevented by avoiding the midday sun. When in the sun, wear hats with brims, long-sleeve shirts, sunglasses, and use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher on all exposed parts of the skin. If you have children, protect them from the sun and don’t let them get sunburned. Be aware of all moles and spots on your skin, and report any changes to a doctor right away. Have a skin exam during your regular health check-ups.

The best defense against cancer

Early detection – finding a cancer early before it has spread – gives you the best chance to do something about it. Knowing about these cancers and what you can do to help reduce your cancer risk can save your life.

Take control of your health and reduce your cancer risk.

  • Stay away from tobacco.
  • Stay at a healthy weight.
  • Get moving with regular physical activity.
  • Eat healthy with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Limit how much alcohol you drink (if you drink at all).
  • Protect your skin.
  • Know yourself, your family history, and your risks.
  • Get regular check-ups and cancer screening tests.

For information on how to reduce your cancer risk and other questions about cancer, please call us anytime, day or night, at 1-800-227-2345 or visit us online at www.cancer.org.


Last Medical Review: 04/16/2014
Last Revised: 04/16/2014