Being Well

Cancer in Men Highlighted During Men’s Health Month

For Men's Health Month, make an appointment with your doctor. Getting regular check ups and recommended screenings makes it easier to spot cancer in early stages when it's more treatable.

June is Men’s Health Month, which focuses on heightening awareness of health issues, like cancer in men, and educating men and their families about steps they can take to preserve their health. This measure is important because, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), men often overlook preventative and maintenance measures that could protect their well-being, such as immunizations, monitoring diabetes and getting routine exams and cancer screening procedures.

How This Connects to Cancer

This inattention to health issues is unfortunate. It turns out that men are at higher risk for several types of cancer, and not just the sex-specific ones like prostate and testicular cancer. Men outnumber women in diagnoses of cancers that affect both sexes, such as stomach cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. And, as the National Cancer Institute statistics show, men are more likely to die from cancer.

Sex hormones may be affecting your likelihood of developing cancer. For instance, the Colon Cancer Foundation reports that estrogen may protect against developing colon cancer. While women do develop colon cancer, in many cases it occurs after menopause and at an older age than in men. Estrogen was also implicated by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who were able to reduce incidences of stomach cancer in male mice treated with the female hormone.

Additionally, although rare, men can also get breast cancer. According to the American Cancer society, 2,600 men will be diagnosed with the disease this year and 440 will die from it. Family history plays a role and so does an unhealthy lifestyle.

The Impacts of Lifestyle

Behavior patterns may also have a role in explaining why more men are diagnosed with some cancers. The Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI) reports that increased smoking and alcohol consumption, in addition to occupational exposures, may account for some gender disparity in cancer diagnoses. But with some cancers, such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma, where nearly 50 percent more men than women are diagnosed, it’s still unknown why such a large difference exists.

Thoughts of cancer can be daunting, but there are ways to reduce the risks. The recommendations are simple and straightforward, albeit not always convenient. You first want to maintain a healthy weight, which includes making exercise a habit. Make a commitment to trying new physical activities, like taking up hiking or a weekly pick-up basketball game. Switch out one snack a day for fresh fruits and veggies. Pack kale chips or cut up some apple slices if you still crave a little crunch. As well, you want to limit the amount of alcohol you drink, avoid tobacco and protect your skin with sunblock. Try to adjust your lifestyle over time to evade getting overwhelmed.

What You Can Do

Men’s Health Month is a good time to educate yourself about cancer in men and other health concerns, and talk to your doctor. Some cancers have early warning signs or can be halted in a precancerous stage. It might be tempting to avoid going to the doctor unless symptoms demand medical examination, but routine checkups and cancer screenings help impede health issues before they become problems or at least address them in early stages when they’re often more treatable. Establish a primary care physician, and make sure he knows about your health history and that of your family as well. Together you can make a plan to protect your health.

There’s no guaranteed prevention of cancer, but staying healthy is vital. Not only can these steps possibly reduce your risk of cancer, they can improve your health overall and make you feel much better. If you do happen to develop cancer, having already established these steps as a part of your life will make you stronger and better able to endure the cancer treatment and bounce back after it’s completed.

Judy Schwartz Haley
Judy Schwartz Haley