Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Top cancers among men

During National Men’s Health Week, learn about the top four cancers that affect men.

Photo credit: Steve Wilson

Lung cancer: smoking and lesser-known risk factors

More men die in the United States from lung cancer than any other kind of cancer, and it is estimated that adult male smokers lose an average of 13.2 years of their life. Although it is widely known that smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, it can also lead to other cancers, such as pancreatic, head and neck, esophageal, kidney, stomach, colon, acute myelogenous leukemia and ovarian cancers. Smoking cessation can significantly reduce your risk. Learn more about quitting.

Although smoking causes more than 80 percent of all lung cancers, people who do not smoke can also get lung cancer. Additional risk factors include: use of other types of tobacco, such as pipes or cigars; secondhand smoke; exposure to harmful chemicals, such as radon gas or asbestos; and personal history, such as having had radiation therapy or a family history of lung cancer.
Learn more about lung cancer.

Prostate cancer: new research sparks changes in screening guidelines

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among men. However, since the adoption of the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, which measures the level of PSA in a man’s blood, there has been a 39 percent reduction in mortality rates.

Despite reducing cancer deaths, the test has recently been under scrutiny due to its potential adverse side effects, such as overdiagnosis and overtreament.

Last year, the U.S. Preventive Services Taskforce recommended that men not get a PSA test anymore. Most recently, the American Urological Association (AUA) changed its guidelines to recommend that men under the age of 55, who at average risk of prostate cancer should not get tested. They also recommend against screening men over the age of 70 who have a life expectancy less than 10-15 years.

With conflicting information and guidelines, it is important to talk to your doctor about your individual risk for prostate cancer and educate yourself about the pros and cons of testing.

Colon cancer: researchers find that simpler colonoscopies are safer

Although colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women, the mortality rates have been declining thanks to preventative screening and increased awareness of the disease.

The most common form of colorectal screening is a colonoscopy, which uses a flexible fiberoptic tube to check for cancer or polyps in the colon or rectum. There are many ways that colonoscopies are performed, and as the complexity increases, there is a higher risk of adverse events such as GI bleeding or colonic perforation. New findings from VCU Massey researchers have found that simpler colonoscopies are safer.

The American Cancer Society recommends that those who have no identified risk factors should begin regular screening at age 50. Those who have a family history or other risk factors for colorectal polyps or cancer should talk with their doctor about starting screening at a younger age and/or getting screened more frequently.

Risk factors specific to men include:

  • Age: over 90 percent of colorectal cancer cases are in men over age 50
  • Family history: if people in your immediate family or near relations had colorectal cancer at a young age, you should be screened earlier than at age 50
  • Previous colorectal cancer: if you’ve had cancer removed already, you’re at higher risk of developing a new one
  • Inflammatory bowel disease: if you have had a condition such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis for several years
  • Lifestyle factors: drinking more than two alcoholic drinks per day, obesity, smoking, diabetes and a high-fat diet

Skin Cancer: more prevalent in men due to neglect and overexposure

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in both men and women, accounting for nearly half of all cancers in the United States. But, men over the age of 50 are more than twice as likely to develop and die from skin cancer as women.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, men aren’t naturally more vulnerable to skin cancer than women, but the problem roots from more sun exposure and fewer visits to the doctor. The Foundation states that, “the combination of exposure and neglect is especially dangerous when it comes to melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.” Additionally, middle-aged and older men are the least likely to perform skin self-exams or visit the dermatologist. They are also less likely to use sunscreen properly or at all.

The keys to overcoming skin cancer are prevention, early detection and prompt treatment. Learn more about preventative measures such sunscreen and how to perform a self-skin exam on the Massey News blog.

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Posted on: June 11, 2013

Category: Prevention & control