Every year, cancer claims the lives of nearly 300,000 men in America. Men can reduce their risk for several of the most common kinds of cancer.
Tobacco Use and Secondhand Smoke
More men in the United States die from lung cancer than any other kind of cancer, and cigarette smoking causes most cases. Smoking also causes cancers of the esophagus, larynx (voice box), mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, pancreas, stomach, and acute myeloid leukemia. Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work increase their lung cancer risk by 20%–30%. Concentrations of many cancer-causing and toxic chemicals are higher in secondhand smoke than in the smoke inhaled by smokers.
One of the most important things you can do to lower your risk of cancer is to stop smoking if you smoke, and avoid secondhand smoke.
Obesity, Overweight, and Lack of Physical Activity
For more than 30 years, excess weight, lack of physical activity, and an unhealthy diet have been considered second only to tobacco use as preventable causes of disease and death in the United States. Since the 1960s, tobacco use has decreased by a third while obesity rates have doubled.
In men, the following cancers are associated with being overweight: colorectal cancer, esophageal adenocarcinoma (a type of cancer of the tube that connects your throat to your stomach), and cancer of the kidney and pancreas. Several of these cancers also are associated with not getting enough physical activity.
Adopting a lifestyle that includes healthy eating and regular physical activity can help prevent these cancers.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. The two most common kinds of skin cancer—basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas—are highly curable. But melanoma, the third most common skin cancer, is more dangerous. About 65%–90% of melanomas are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light—an invisible kind of radiation that comes from the sun, tanning beds, and sunlamps. Overall, men have higher rates of melanoma. But among young people, women get it more.
A few serious sunburns can increase your risk of skin cancer. To protect your skin from the sun, seek shade or go indoors during midday hours; wear long sleeves and long pants, a hat with a wide brim, and sunglasses; use sunscreen with a sun protective factor (SPF) of 15 or higher; and avoid indoor tanning.
Types of Cancer
Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in men. All men are at risk for prostate cancer, but older men, African-American men, and men with a family history of prostate cancer have a higher risk.
Not all medical experts agree that screening for prostate cancer saves lives. Currently, there is not enough evidence to decide if the possible benefit of prostate cancer screening outweighs the risks. CDC supports informed decision making, which occurs when a man—
- Understands the nature and risk of prostate cancer.
- Understands the risks of, benefits of, and alternatives to screening.
- Participates in making the decision to be screened at a level he wants.
- Makes a decision consistent with his preferences and values.
Colorectal (Colon) Cancer
The third leading cause of cancer deaths in American men is colorectal cancer. Screening tests for colorectal cancer can find precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Screening tests also can find colorectal cancer early, when treatment works best. Everyone should be tested for colorectal cancer regularly starting at age 50.