The week leading up to Father’s Day is National Men’s Health Week, which is dedicated to raising awareness of preventable health problems and encouraging early detection and treatment among men and boys.
Here at AICR, we’re proud to do our part by highlighting the message that many of the most common cancers in males have significant links to lifestyle factors. (For some cancers common in men, however, no strong links to diet, weight or physical activity have been identified; for these cancers, screening and early detection are key.)
Let’s start by taking a look at the most common cancer in men (besides skin cancer).
Nearly 240,000 men get prostate cancer every year in the U.S.; over 29,000 die from it.
Age, ethnicity and family history are some of the major risk factors for prostate cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute, where you can find dependable, up-to-date information about screening and testing.
On AICR’s new Learn About Prostate Cancer pages, you can read about AICR’s expert report, which reviewed thousands of studies on the diet-cancer link. That report concluded that a few simple changes to the diet do have a role in lowering prostate cancer risk. Specifically, the report found that diets high in tomatoes, watermelon and other lycopene-containing foods are protective against prostate cancer, as are diets high in selenium.
The same report concluded, however, diets high in calcium are associated with increased risk for prostate cancer.
AICR estimates that 11 percent of prostate cancer cases could be prevented with a diet high in lycopene-containing foods, which may not seem large. But considering how many cases occur each year, that number works out to nearly 26,250 cases annually.
The third most common cancer in men (nearly 73,700 cases and 26,300 deaths per year in the U.S.) has a much stronger lifestyle component than does prostate cancer.
As with all cancers, age is a major risk factor. But a host of everyday choices about what we eat and how much we move can dramatically lower a man’s risk for this disease.
On AICR’s Learn About Colorectal Cancer pages, you can learn how to protect yourself with a diet high in a variety of plant foods, getting regular physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight. You can also learn more about lifestyle factors linked to increased colorectal cancer risk in men, like red and processed meat and alcohol.
AICR estimates that making these changes could prevent one-half of all cases of colorectal cancer. That’s about 36,750 cases in men every year.
Compared to common cancers like those of the prostate and colorectum, esophageal cancer is relatively rare, striking almost 14,500 men ever year, and killing over 12,200. But we’re highlighting it here during Men’s Health Week for two reasons.
1. It is highly preventable.
2. It is four times more common in men than it is in women.
Age is a risk factor for esophageal cancer, as it is for most cancers. But the major risk factors for this cancer are related to lifestyle, including smoking, alcohol and obesity.
On AICR’s Learn About Esophageal Cancer pages, you can find information about how to lower your risk by maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding alcohol and tobacco.
The amount you can reduce your risk by taking these simple steps is striking: We estimate that fully 7 in 10 cases of esophageal cancer could be prevented. That’s over 10,000 cases that never have to happen, every year, in the U.S. alone.
OTHER MEN’S CANCERS
Testicular Cancer – Almost 8,000 cases occur in the U.S. annually. Testicular cancer is not strongly related to lifestyle factors, according to AICR. The National Cancer Institute has up-to-date information about screening.
Male Breast Cancer – Too often overlooked, over 2,200 cases of male breast cancer occur in the U.S. each year, and over 400 men die of the disease. It’s not yet clear how much a man’s risk of breast cancer is modified by the lifestyle factors that have been shown to lower a woman’s breast cancer risk, but the NCI website is a source of dependable information.
Kidney Cancer – Over 40,000 cancers of the kidney and renal pelvis occur every year in men, almost twice the number that occur in women. Kidney cancer is convincingly linked to carrying excess body fat.