This is National Men’s Health Week and here, we’re highlighting current research findings on what concrete steps men can take to reduce your cancer risk. Those same daily lifestyle actions can also go a long way in reducing the risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death among men, only slightly below heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control, almost one of every two men will develop cancer in their lifetime.
There are many steps men can take to reduce cancer risk, such as not smoking and screenings. When it comes to other lifestyle steps and cancer risk, AICR research shows that a healthy diet, being active, and keeping a healthy weight play a key role in reducing risk of the most common cancers that affect men.
The Most Common Cancers
The cancers that most often affect men include, prostate, colorectal, lung and liver:
Age is the main risk factor for prostate cancer. Almost all cases occur among men over age 50. Yet there is strong and consistent evidence that diet is one way men can reduce their risk.
- eating high amounts of mushrooms, brazil nuts and other foods high in selenium links to reduced risk.
- eating high amounts of tomatoes, watermelons and other foods high in lycopene links to reduced risk.
- AICR estimates that 11% of prostate cancer cases are related to diet.
- Colorectal rates have dropped over the past decade, mainly attributed to increased screenings. But it is the third leading cancer diagnosed and cause of cancer death among men – and women.
- Excess body fat is one of the strongest factors that increases risk; abdominal fatness is also a cause.
- Other factors that increase risk are processed meats and high amounts of red meat, and alcoholic drinks; factors that lower risk include foods with fiber, garlic, and milk, along with daily moderate physical activity.
- Half of US colorectal cancers can be prevented through diet, activity, and being a healthy weight.
- This cancer is the leading cause of death among men – and women.
- The single most important step you can take to prevent lung cancer is avoiding tobacco. Smoking and other tobacco use causes approximately 90 to 95 percent of US lung cancer cases every year.
- Of the cancers not caused by tobacco, diets high in fruit could play a role in reducing risk.
- This cancer is the second leading cause of death among Asian/Pacific Islander men.
- Alcoholic drinks link to increased risk of this cancer.
- AICR estimates that limiting alcoholic drinks could prevent 15 percent of US liver cancers.
Obesity and Overall Health
Overall – aside from not smoking – being a healthy weight is the single biggest factor that can help prevent cancer. If all the men living in the US got to and stayed a healthy weight, AICR estimates that would prevent almost 30,000 cases of cancer. (If all US women were to get to that healthy weight, it would prevent another 91,000 cases per year.)
Today, approximately one-third of US men are obese; and almost three quarters are overweight and obese. Getting to a healthy weight also one of the most important things men can do for overall health. It reduces risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death among men.
It also reduces risk of type 2 diabetes which in turn, may lower risk of several cancers. Men with diabetes are approximately twice as likely to get cancers of the liver and pancreas, according to a concensus report released in 2010. That link was weaker but still clear for cancers of the colon/rectum and bladder.
In general, following AICR recommendations for cancer prevention also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
- National Diabetes Education Program. The Facts About Diabetes: A Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.
- Katherine M. Flegal, PhD; Margaret D. Carroll, MSPH; Brian K. Kit, MD; Cynthia L. Ogden, PhD. “Prevalence of Obesity and Trends in the Distribution of Body Mass Index Among US Adults, 1999-2010.” JAMA. February 1, 2012.
- Edward Giovannucci et al. “Diabetes and Cancer: A Consensus Report.” You have free access to this content. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. Volume 60, Issue 4, CA CANCER J CLIN 2010;60:207–221. (PDF)
- AICR/WRCF Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective and the Continuous Update Project Reports; Policy and Action for Cancer Prevention 2009.