There are steps men can take to reduce their risk of cancer.
Dr. Otis W. Brawley, Master of the American College of Physicians, is the chief medical and scientific officer for the Atlanta-based American Cancer Society.
Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in American men, right behind heart disease. In 2018, four cancers are expected to account for half of all cancer deaths in American men: lung, with an estimated 83,600 deaths; prostate, with 29,400; colorectal, with 27,400; and pancreatic, with 23,000. The good news is that men can lower their risk of dying from cancer by making a few important changes in their lifestyles. Many of these health practices also decrease the risk of heart disease.
The leading cause of cancer and heart disease is tobacco use, particularly cigarette smoking. Tobacco use is linked to 18 different cancers. Much of the decline in cancer death rates today can be attributed to the fact that smoking among men has declined to 16 percent today, down from 55 percent in 1955.
The message is clear: If you do not smoke, do not start! If you do smoke, stop. It is perhaps an over-simplification to say smoking cessation can be difficult. Smokers should seek help from a health-care professional for the greatest chance of kicking the habit. It’s never too late to quit. Risk of heart attack goes down even in the weeks after quitting. Even a lifelong smoker in his 50s or 60s can eventually have a lower risk of cancer if he stops.
For non-smokers, the greatest risk factor for cancer is obesity, which comes in part from consuming too many calories and not exercising enough. The combination of these factors is the second-leading cause of cancer in the United States. It has been linked to cancer of the prostate, colon and pancreas, among others. And it’s linked to higher risk of heart disease.
Men should maintain a healthy body weight, exercise regularly and eat a diet that is predominantly plant based. Limiting consumption of red meat, along with charbroiled and processed meats, is especially important.
The American Cancer Society recommends every adult incorporate exercise into daily life. Ideally, a person should get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous- intensity activity – or a combination of these – spread throughout each week.
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