Several weeks ago I wrote a blog post that really hit the mark for many women. I heard from many readers asking for this same type of information for men. So in honor of Men’s Health Week and Father’s Day, I hope this information finds its way to all of the special men in our lives.

If you’re like my husband, you get a lot of health tips from your wife, mom, coworkers, and friends. Some of them are scientific, while others are just general healthy living tips that someone read in a magazine or heard on a talk show: exercise, get more sleep, get a flu shot, get a colonoscopy, don’t smoke, watch your cholesterol, wear sunscreen, check your blood pressure…the list goes on.

While there are many things you can do to stay healthy, as an oncologist and the director of CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, I want to focus on cancer screenings (checking your body for a disease before you have symptoms).

Every year, more than 300,000 men in the United States lose their lives to cancer. The most common kinds of cancer among men in the U.S. are skin cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, and colorectal (colon) cancer. While there may be screenings for each type of these cancers, CDC supports screening for colorectal and lung cancers as recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).

To help you manage your cancer screenings, I’ve created your very own cheat sheet for cancer screenings and good health. I’ve started your cheat sheet off with the screenings that are available for some of the cancers that most often affect men. But I challenge you to add to it with your doctor’s recommendations for further screenings or tests based on your own health, family history, and age. Download this printable fact sheet[PDF-113KB] to take to your next appointment.

Your Cheat Sheet to Cancer Screenings and Good Health

Type of Cancer Screening Method When to Get Screened*
Colorectal (colon) cancer Colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, or fecal occult blood testing (FOBT) If you are 50 to 75 years old, get tested. The schedule depends on the type of test used.
Lung cancer Low-dose CT scan If you are 55 to 80 years old and are a heavy smoker or a past smoker who quit within the last 15 years, get a low-dose CT scan every year.
Prostate cancer Digital rectal exam (DRE) and prostate specific antigen (PSA) test Talk to your doctor. The USPSTF recommends against PSA screening for men who do not have symptoms.
Skin cancer Periodic total-body examinations by a clinician Talk to your doctor. The USPSTF has concluded that there is not enough evidence to recommend for or against routine skin cancer screening.

*Talk with your doctor about when and how often you should be screened. Depending on your personal health history, family health history, or screening results, your doctor may recommend a different screening schedule.

Printable Cheat Sheet for Men’s Cancer Screenings and Good Health
Printable Cheat Sheet for Men’s Cancer Screenings and Good Health[PDF-113KB]

After reading the cheat sheet, you may be wondering why you shouldn’t get screened if a cancer screening test exists. Good question. Some tests have been shown to find both cancer early and to lower the chance of dying from cancer. Others have been shown to find cancer early, but do not lower the risk of dying from cancer. In a nutshell, the benefit of screening doesn’t always outweigh the harms associated with screening.While these screenings are important, there’s more to your health than just cancer screenings. Here are some simple things you can do every day to stay heathy:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Don’t drink alcohol, or limit it to no more than two drinks a day.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Protect your skin from the sun, and avoid tanning beds.
  • Get a checkup every year.

Lastly, to all of you fighting cancer or caring for someone who is fighting this battle, I encourage you to take steps to stay as healthy as you can during treatment. For more information, visit CDC’s Preventing Infections in Cancer Patients Web site for staying healthy during cancer treatment and 3 Steps Toward Preventing Infections During Cancer Treatment from the CDC Foundation.

By Lisa C. Richardson, MD, MPH
Director of CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control