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For Men’s Health Week: Reducing Your Cancer Risk

male muscle structureThis week marks National Men’s Health Week, a time dedicated to raising awareness of preventable health problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control, cancer is the second leading cause of death among males, causing approximately 24 percent of deaths (with heart disease slightly higher).

The most common cancers that affect men are prostate, colorectal, lung, and skin. Research has found that many of these and other cancers that affect men are linked to diet, weight and physical activity.

Below are the cancers that affect men and are linked to lifestyle factors, and the steps you can take to reduce your risk.

Prostate Cancer

Age, ethnicity and family history are among the major risk factors for prostate cancer. AICR’s expert reports concluded that certain foods play a role in prostate cancer risk.

  • Diets high in tomatoes, watermelon and other lycopene-containing foods are protective against prostate cancer.
  • Diets high in selenium, a mineral found in mushrooms and Brazil nuts, also link to lowering risk.
  • Diets high in calcium are associated with increased risk for prostate cancer. Studies included both foods naturally containing calcium and those fortified with calcium. However, it is important to note that increased prostate cancer risk occurred at high calcium intakes: 1,500 mg/day or more. Men in the United States have an average intake of about 800 to 1150 mg of dietary calcium per day. One cup of milk or fortified soymilk has about 300 mg calcium. Diets high in calcium also lower the risk of colorectal cancer.

  AICR estimates that 11 percent of prostate cancer cases could be prevented with diet.

Read more about reducing your risk of prostate cancer.

Colorectal Cancer

The third most common cancer in men (nearly 73,700 cases and 26,300 deaths per year in the U.S.) has a strong lifestyle component. Age is a major risk factor, but AICR’s expert reports concluded that diet and other lifestyle choices can lower a man’s risk for this disease.

  • Being physically active 30 or more minutes per day linked to decreased risk.
  • Eating diets high in fiber, garlic and calcium lower the risk; diets high in red meat and processed meats increase risk. Drinking alcohol also raises the risk of this disease.
  • Excess body fat increases the risk.

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.

Read more about reducing your risk of colorectal cancer.

Lung Cancer

For both men and women, lung cancer is the second leading cause of cancer and the leading cause of death. It accounts for more deaths each year than breast, prostate, and colon cancers combined, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many cases of lung cancers are preventable.

Tobacco use causes approximately 90 to 95 percent of the over 200,000 lung cancer cases in the US every year. Not using tobacco in any form is the best protection against lung cancer possible.

  • AICR’s expert report concluded that diets high in fruit lowers lung cancer risk.
  • Beta-carotene supplements can increase the risk of this cancer.

Esophageal Cancer

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 for two reasons: it is highly preventable and it is four times more common in men than women.

  • Major risk factors for this cancer are related to lifestyle, including smoking, alcohol and obesity.
  • Eating a diet high in fruits, non-starchy vegetables, foods containing vitamin C, and foods containing beta-carotene all link to lower risk.
  • Excess body fat increases the risk, as well as drinking too much alcohol.

AICR estimates that 7 in 10 cases of esophageal cancer could be prevented with a healthy lifestyle. That’s over 10,000 cases that never have to happen every year in the U.S. alone.

Read more about how to reduce your risk of esophageal cancer.

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.

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 linked to lowering risk for women’s breast cancer. Visit the NCI website is for more 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.


Find information on screening and testing for these and other cancer online at the National Cancer Institute.

Published on June 12, 2013

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