Cancer Facts for Men
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The cancers that most often affect men are prostate, colon, 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 and easier to treat) may help save your life.
Visit our website, www.cancer.org, or call our toll-free number, 1-800-227-2345, to get more details on our cancer screening guidelines or to learn more about what you can do to help reduce your risk of getting 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 to develop prostate cancer than men of any 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 make an informed decision with their health care provider about whether to be tested for prostate cancer. Research has not yet proven that the benefits 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 provider 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 provider 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.
Most colon cancers (cancers of the colon and rectum) 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, being overweight, eating a diet mostly of high-fat foods (especially from animal sources), smoking, and being inactive can make a person more likely to have this 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.
For people at average risk, the American Cancer Society recommends getting one of the following tests, 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 mostly find cancer
- Yearly guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) **, or
- Yearly fecal immunochemical test (FIT) **, or
- Stool DNA test (sDNA) every 3 years*
* If the test is positive, a colonoscopy should be done.
** The multiple stool take-home method should be used. One test done by the doctor is not enough. 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’re willing to have one of them. Talk to a health care provider about which test is best for you.
If you are at high risk of colon cancer based on family history or other factors, you may need to be tested at a younger age with colonoscopy. Talk to a health care provider about your risk for colon cancer to know when you should start testing.
About 8 out of 10 lung cancer deaths are thought to result from smoking. 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 a health care provider 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 health care provider about whether getting yearly low-dose CT scans to test for early lung cancer is right for them. Testing may benefit adults who are current or former smokers between the ages of 55 and 74 who are in good health 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 testing with a health care provider before testing is done.
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 as children are more likely to get skin cancer.
What you can do
Most skin cancers can be prevented 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 30 or higher 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.
The best defense against cancer
Doing what you can to help prevent cancer is your best defense. Knowing about cancer and what you can do to help reduce your risk of it may help save your life.
The next key is early detection. Finding cancer early, before it has spread, gives you the best chance to do something about it.
Take control of your health, and reduce your cancer risk.
- Stay away from all forms of 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.
Last Medical Review: March 22, 2016 Last Revised: March 22, 2016