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6 Top Health Threats to Men

What puts a man’s health at risk as he gets older?

Lung Cancer: Still a Health Threat to Men

Lung cancer is a terrible disease: ugly, aggressive, and almost always metastatic. Lung cancer spreads early, usually before it grows large enough to cause symptoms or even show up on an X-ray. By the time it's found, lung cancer is often advanced and difficult to cure. Less than half of men are alive a year later.

So ... are you still smoking?

Tobacco smoke causes 90% of all lung cancers. Thanks to falling smoking rates in the U.S., fewer men than ever are dying of lung cancer. But lung cancer is still the leading cancer killer in men: more than enough to fill the Superdome every year.

No effective screening test for lung cancer is available, although a major study is going on to learn if CT scans of the chests of high-risk people can catch cancer early enough to improve survival.

Quitting smoking at any age reduces the risk for lung cancer. Few preventive measures are as effective -- or as challenging -- as stopping smoking. But new tools are available that work to help men quit. Your doctor can tell you more.

Prostate Cancer: A Leading Cancer for Men

This is one health problem men can lay full claim to -- after all, women don't have prostates. A walnut-sized gland behind the penis that secretes fluids important for ejaculation, the prostate is prone to problems as men age.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men other than skin cancer. Close to 200,000 men will develop prostate cancer this year in the U.S.

But while one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime, only one in 35 will die from it. "Many prostate cancers are slow-growing and unlikely to spread, while others are aggressive," says Djenaba Joseph, MD, medical officer for cancer prevention at the CDC. "The problem is, we don't have effective tests for identifying which cancers are more dangerous."

Screening for prostate cancer requires a digital rectal exam (the infamous gloved finger) and a blood test for prostate specific antigen (PSA).

But in fact, "Screening has never definitively been shown to reduce the chances of dying from prostate cancer," according to Joseph. That's because screening finds many cancers that would never be fatal, even if undetected. Testing then leads to aggressive treatment of relatively harmless cancers, which causes problems like impotence and incontinence.

Should you get screened for prostate cancer? Some experts say yes, but "the best solution is to see your doctor regularly and talk about your overall risk," says Joseph. "All men should understand the risks and benefits of each approach, whichever you choose."

Depression and Suicide: Men Are at Risk

Depression isn't just a bad mood, a rough patch, or the blues. It's an emotional disturbance that affects your whole body and overall health.

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