There are an estimated 1,650,000 newly diagnosed cases of cancer each year with about 600,000 of these cases ending in death. Men get cancer at the same rate as women but have different cancers affecting them. Fortunately, the rate of cancer death is decreasing due to better cancer treatments and research on the various types of cancer.
In men, the top cancers found include cancer of the prostate, skin cancer, lung cancer, and colon cancer. Many of these cancers are directly related to lifestyle factors such as smoking and drinking alcohol.
Prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed of all cancers and the American Cancer Society’s 2015 estimates for US males are:
• About 220,800 new cases
• About 27,540 deaths
Prostate cancer is a male disease because women do not have prostate glands. Prostate cancer is very common and its incidence increases with age. Prostate cancer is the most diagnosed cancer in men after skin cancer and is one of the leading causes of cancer death in older men. The risk of prostate cancer increases with age to the point where it is estimated that 80% of men who are ninety years of age or older have some degree of prostate cancer.
While 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed, only 1 in 35 will die because the cancer presents in various forms, from slow growing to much more aggressive varieties, says Dr. Djenaba Joseph, medical officer for cancer prevention at the Centers For Disease Control. So far, excerpts have yet to come up with tests that identify which types are more or most aggressive.
Two types of prostate cancer:
1) an aggressive form of prostate cancer that metastasizes to bones and other body areas, leading to death or disability if not treated:
2) a non-aggressive form of prostate cancer that grows slowly and doesn’t metastasize as much as the aggressive type.
It is important for the doctor to try to distinguish between the types because, if the man has a slow growing type, the cancer may simply be watched or parts of the cancer removed to reduce symptoms.
Aggressive treatment, such as removal of the prostate, radiation, chemotherapy, and hormonal therapy, can be reserved for the fast growing types of prostate cancer.
Some symptoms of prostate cancer include:
• Poor urinary stream
• An increased risk of bladder infections
• Urinary blood
• Erectile dysfunction
• Pain in the bones from spread to bony areas
• Weakness of the legs due to pressing on the spinal cord by the cancer itself
Prostate Cancer Detection
Prostate cancer can be screened for in men over the age of 40 by having the doctor do a digital rectal examination to check for abnormal lumps or abnormal shape of the prostate gland and a blood test called a PSA test. This stands for “prostate specific antigen” and can be elevated in benign prostate disease as well. A PSA test alone isn’t a good screening test for prostate cancer because some prostate cancers don’t have elevated PSA levels and the PSA level can be elevated for reasons other than prostate cancer.
Until better prostate cancer screening comes along, screening for the PSA level and the digital rectal examination remain the best possible tests for the disease and men shouldn’t be squeamish about having these tests done.
Risk Factors For Prostate Cancer
There are several risk factors for prostate cancer. These include the following:
• Age – About 60 percent of prostate cancer occurs in men over the age of 65.
• Ethnicity – Prostate cancer has a higher risk in African American men than in Caucasians.
• Geography – Prostate cancer is found in greater numbers in North America, Northwestern Europe, Caribbean islands, and Australia.
• Family history – Prostate cancer runs in families.
• Genetic factors – Men with mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene have a higher risk of prostate cancer.
• Men who eat a lot of red meat or drink high fat dairy products are at higher risk of developing prostate cancer.
• Men who are obese have a higher chance of getting the more aggressive types of cancer.
• Men who have had prostatitis have an increased risk of prostate cancer in some studies.
• Men who have had a vasectomy have a slightly higher risk of developing prostate cancer.
Skin cancer is identified at a high rate but isn’t often included in cancer statistics because most skin cancers are completely treatable. Skin cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer in men after prostate cancer.
Men have double the rate of skin cancer when compared to women. This is because they are exposed more to the sun in certain occupations, they do not wear sunscreen, and they don’t see the doctor often enough to be adequately screened for skin cancer.
Basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer are the two main types of skin cancer in men. Melanoma, while not as common is the most lethal form and the leading cause of skin cancer deaths among men. If the cancer is not of the melanoma type, the cancer will simply be disfiguring and, if not removed altogether, can result in a large cancer that is difficult to remove and disfigures the person in the area the cancer used to be.
Squamous cell cancer has a low rate of metastases but can metastasize if not treated soon enough. Few people die from basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer, while melanoma a is relatively lethal if not managed correctly. Protecting your skin from UV rays is the best preventative measure against skin cancer, this is especially important for men who work outdoors.
While other cancers may be more prevalent, the number one cancer killer in men is lung cancer. Lung cancer is highly associated with smoking but can be due to secondhand smoke, pollution, asbestos exposure (an occupational exposure), radon gas, and heredity.
Men with lung cancer will report weight loss, cough, and the production of bloody sputum. Shortness of breath can occur as the cancer worsens. Because there are no accepted screening tests for lung cancer, it is not often found in its early stages so that, once a man is diagnosed with lung cancer, he has about a year to live.
Because lung cancer is usually due to smoking (according to WebMd, in 90% of cases) and because more women have been smoking in recent years than men have, actually more women die from lung cancer when compared to men.
The incidence of lung cancer between men and women is close, however, with almost half of all lung cancer deaths being men. There are enough lung cancer deaths each year to fill the Superdome at any given point in time.
Lung cancer is a horrible disease: aggressive, painful, and almost always deadly.
SO, ARE YOU STILL SMOKING?
Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men. It is caused by polyps in the colon that are allowed to grow into colorectal cancer.
There are hereditary causes of colon cancer as well as environmentally caused colon cancer. Colon cancer can be caused by eating a high fat, low fiber diet, for example.
Colon cancer can, for the most part be preventable. It is recommended that all men have a screening colonoscopy at the age of 50 and every ten years thereafter. Any polyps found can be removed and colon cancer can be identified in its early stages, where it is more easily treatable. There are other screening tests for colon cancer but the colonoscopy is considered the gold standard of screening methods.
Cancer in men is a serious problem. The only way men can reverse the chances of cancer death is to see the doctor and be screened for the various types of cancer for which screening is possible.
Healthy living also goes a long way toward reducing the risk of cancer in susceptible men.