Cancer Facts for Men

Some of the cancers that most often affect men are prostate, colorectal, lung, and skin cancers. Knowing about these cancers and what you can do to help prevent them or find them early (when they are small, haven't spread, and might be easier to treat) may help save your life.

Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men, except for skin cancers. 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. African American men and Caribbean men of African ancestry are more likely to develop prostate cancer than men of other races. 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 have a chance to make an informed decision with their health care provider about whether to be screened for prostate cancer. The decision should be made after getting information about the risks and potential benefits of prostate cancer screening. Men should not be screened unless they have received this information. The discussion about screening should take place at:

Age 50 for men who are at average risk of prostate cancer and are expected to live at least 10 more years

Age 45 for men at high risk of developing prostate cancer. This includes African Americans, Caribbean men of African ancestry, and men who have a first-degree relative (father or brother) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age (younger than age 65)

Age 40 for men at even higher risk (those with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer at an early age)

Men who decide to be screened should be tested with the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. The digital rectal exam may also be done as a part of screening. How often you are tested will depend on your PSA level, general health, preferences, and values.

Colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer is cancer that starts in the colon or rectum. Some factors that increase colorectal cancer risk include being overweight or obese, physical inactivity, a diet high in red and processed meats, smoking, heavy alcohol use, being older, and a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps.

What you can do

Regular colorectal cancer screening is one of the most powerful weapons against colorectal cancer. Most colorectal cancers start with a polyp – a small growth on the lining of the colon or rectum. Screening can help to find colorectal cancer early, when it’s smaller, hasn’t spread, and might be easier to treat. Certain screening tests can also help prevent colorectal cancer by finding and removing polyps before they turn into cancer.

The American Cancer Society recommends the following for people at average risk for colorectal cancer:

Men and women should start regular screening at age 45.

People who are in good health and with a life expectancy of more than 10 years should continue regular colorectal cancer screening through the age of 75.

For people ages 76 through 85, the decision to be screened should be based on a person’s preferences, life expectancy, overall health, and prior screening history.

People over 85 should no longer get colorectal cancer screening.

Screening can be done either with a sensitive test that looks for signs of cancer in a person’s stool (a stool-based test), or with an exam that looks at the colon and rectum (a visual exam). These options are listed below.

Stool-based tests

  • Highly sensitive fecal immunochemical test (FIT)* every year, or
  • Highly sensitive guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT)* every year, or
  • Multi-targeted stool DNA test (MT-sDNA) every 3 years*

Visual (structural) exams of the colon and rectum

  • Colonoscopy every 10 years, or
  • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy)* every 5 years, or
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy* every 5 years

*If a person chooses to be screened with a test other than colonoscopy, any abnormal test result should be followed up with colonoscopy.

People at high risk of colorectal cancer based on family and/or personal history or other factors may need to: start screening before age 45, be screened more often, or get specific tests. Talk to a health care provider about your risk for colorectal cancer to know when you should start testing

There are some differences between these tests to consider, but the most important thing is to get screened, no matter which test you choose. Talk to a health care provider about which tests might be good options for you, and to your insurance provider about your coverage.

Lung cancer

Lung cancer is most often caused by exposure to chemicals and other particles in the air. While smoking tobacco is the leading cause of lung cancer, not all people with lung cancer are smokers. Some may be former smokers, and some have never smoked at all.

What you can do

Not all lung cancers can be prevented. But there are things you can do that might help lower your risk. If you don’t smoke, don’t start, and avoid breathing in other people’s smoke. If your friends and loved ones smoke, call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 for help quitting.

The American Cancer Society recommends screening for certain people at higher risk for lung cancer. If you are a current or former smoker ages 55 to 74 years and in fairly good health, you might benefit from screening for lung cancer with a yearly low-dose CT scan (LDCT). Talk to a health care provider about your risk for lung cancer, how you can quit smoking if you still smoke, the possible benefits, limits, and harms of lung cancer screening, and where you can get screened.

Skin cancer

Anyone can get skin cancer, but people with fair skin are more likely to get skin cancer than people with darker skin. Most basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers are caused by repeated and unprotected skin exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight, as well as from man-made sources such as tanning beds. A type of skin cancer called melanoma is less common than some other types of skin cancer, but is more dangerous because it is more likely to grow and spread.

People who have had other types of skin cancers and people with a close family member who had melanoma have an increased risk for melanoma.

What you can do

The most important way to lower your risk of most skin cancers is by limiting exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and other sources like tanning beds. When outside, try to stay in the shade, especially during the middle of the day. If you’re going to be in the sun, wear hats with brims, long-sleeve shirts, sunglasses, and use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 on all exposed skin. If you have children, protect them from the sun and don’t let them get sunburned. Do not use tanning beds or lamps.

Be aware of all moles and spots on your skin, and report any changes to a health care provider right away. You should ask about having a skin exam done during your regular check-ups.

What Else You Can Do to Help Reduce Your Cancer Risk

  • Stay away from tobacco.
  • Get to and 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.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2019. Atlanta, Ga: American Cancer Society; 2019. Accessed at https://www.cancer.org/research/cancer-facts-statistics/all-cancer-facts-figures/cancer-facts-figures-2019.html on July 1, 2019.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cancer and men. Accessed at https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/resources/features/cancerandmen/index.htm on July 1, 2019.

Jemal A, Ward EM, Johnson CJ, Cronin KA, Ma J, Ryerson AB, Mariotto A, Lake AJ, Wilson R, Sherman RL, Anderson RN, Henley SJ, Kohler BA, Penberthy L, Feuer EJ, Weir HK. Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975-2014, Featuring Survival. J Natl Cancer Institute. 2017; 109(9): 1-19.

Smith RA, Andrews KS, Brooks D, Fedewa SA, Manassaram-Baptiste D, Saslow D, Wender RC. Cancer screening in the United States, 2019: A review of current American Cancer Society guidelines and current issues in cancer screening. CA: Cancer J Clin. 2019; 69(3): 184-210.

Last Medical Review: August 1, 2019 Last Revised: August 1, 2019

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