Between the coronavirus and civil unrest, there is a lot going on in our country. We are appropriately focused on those challenges, but we must also continue our work to fight cancer through prevention and early detection. As a member of the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program®, I am highlighting vital information for Men’s Health Month to encourage you—or the men in your life—to take charge of your health.
Cancer is a leading health issue facing men. An estimated 893,660 men will be diagnosed with cancer in 2020. In Maryland alone, 491 per every 100,000 males are diagnosed with these diseases each year. Prostate cancer, lung cancer, colorectal cancer and melanoma are among the most common cancers affecting men in the U.S.—but healthy habits could reduce risk of these cancers.
Being active can improve overall health and reduce cancer risk. Obesity has been linked to at least 13 types of cancer and a sedentary lifestyle may also increase risk for certain cancers. At least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, at least 5 days a week can help maintain a healthy weight. When exercising or doing other activities outdoors, wear broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF of at least 30 to protect your skin from the sun.
What you put in your body also affects cancer risk. Eat a balanced diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Limit red meat and avoid processed meats, which have been linked to increased colorectal cancer risk. Alcohol can increase risk of liver and colorectal cancers, so if you drink, limit it to no more than one or two drinks a day. Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer—the sooner you quit, the sooner you reduce your risk.
Schedule an annual check-up and talk to your health care provider about which cancer screenings and vaccines you may need. Colorectal cancer screening should begin at age 45, or earlier if you are at higher risk. Prostate cancer screening has pros and cons, so begin a conversation with your health care provider at age 50 (or at 45 if you have a family history or are African American). If you are ages 55-80 and a current or former smoker with a 30 pack-year history, low dose spiral CT (LDCT) screening is recommended.
Your health care provider may also recommend hepatitis B and C screening (hepatitis B and C are leading causes of liver cancer), testicular and skin exams, or the human papillomavirus (HPV) or hepatitis B vaccines. HPV infections can cause at least three types of cancer in men, including oropharyngeal (back of throat), penile and anal cancers. These cancers are more than twice as common in men than women, and cases linked to HPV have risen in recent years.
Know the facts and take action to protect your health. To learn more, visit www.preventcancer.org.
NIcole Beus Harris is the spouse of Representative Andy Harris, M.D. and a member of the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program. Statistics provided by the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).