Have you ever discovered that your father, brother, husband, partner or boyfriend failed to schedule — or keep — a doctor’s visit for a screening or a preventative checkup? Did you know, on average, women in the United States are expected to live approximately five years longer than men? One possible explanation is that women are more likely than men to see their doctors regularly. As a periodontist and oral healthcare professional, I can personally attest to the validity of this statement. Let’s change that! June is Men’s Health Month. All men should take these three important steps to start reducing their risk of cancer: exercise, eat healthy and get screened.
Each year, more men than women will be diagnosed with cancer, and more men than women will die from it. In the state of New York alone, the rate of men who die from cancer annually is 199.7 per every 100,000. Many cancers do not have symptoms until the later stages; preventative screenings can catch cancer in the early stages when it is most treatable.
What can you do? Men should schedule an appointment with their healthcare professional and, if suggested, get screened. If there is a male figure in your life not doing this, encourage him — or even make the appointment for him. Here are some helpful screening guidelines and prevention tips for men and the people who love them:
• Lung cancer: More people die from lung cancer than any other cancer. In men, 28 percent of all cancer deaths are from lung cancer. Smoking is one of the greatest risk factors to lung cancer. If you smoke, try to stop now. Nicotine is very addicting and once you start it is hard to stop. If you don’t smoke, don’t start.
• Skin cancer: This is one of the most common cancers and is on the rise. While nonmelanoma skin cancer (such as basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma) is often easily cured, melanoma is a dangerous skin cancer that is expected to kill 6,470 men this year. Sun exposure is the number one risk factor for skin cancer. Always use at least SPF 30 sunscreen when outdoors and reapply often. Never use tanning beds. In addition, schedule an annual skin examination and check monthly for moles with changing or irregular borders or colors.
• Prostate cancer: It is expected that 29,480 men will die from prostate cancer in 2014. Being over 50 years of age or having a family history increases risk. Men should talk to their healthcare professional about risk factors and discuss whether prostate cancer testing is right for them.
• Testicular cancer: It is the most common cancer in men ages 15 to 35. Men should perform a testicular self-exam once a month and ask their doctors to examine their testicles as a preventive check.
• Colorectal cancer: Men should talk with their healthcare professional about risk factors and screening for colorectal cancer. Men (and women) of average risk should begin screening at age 50. Those at a higher risk or with a family history may need to start screenings earlier.
• Oral cancer: This is an area I am intimately involved with on a daily basis. Cancer of the mouth or throat is twice as common in men as women. Not using tobacco and not drinking alcohol in excess can prevent most oral cancer. However, one in four people diagnosed with oral cancer has no risk factors. High-risk areas include the lateral border (sides) and ventral border (undersurface) of the tongue, floor of the mouth, soft palate (back of the roof of the mouth) and the tonsils. Keep on top of regular dental visits and get screened at each visit.
• Breast cancer: Yes, men get breast cancer too. It is estimated that 2,360 men will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer this year. In addition to maintaining an ideal body weight and restricting alcohol consumption to lower the risk of breast cancer, men should check for breast lumps and discuss any concerns with their doctors.
Cancer accounts for almost 1 in 4 deaths in the United States. Let’s urge all the male figures in our lives to make their health a priority and get screened. For more information about cancer prevention and early detection, visit the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s Web site at preventcancer.org.
Dr. Wayne Kye is the spouse of Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and a member of the Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program of the Prevent Cancer Foundation.