A man talks with his doctor at a regular screening.
In the cancer fight, regular screenings can increase your chances of catching problems early. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Cancer of the prostate, lungs and colon are the three most common types of cancer men face today.

And although there are no guarantees, the best line of defense is built upon knowledge, early detection and regular screening, said Donald Kim, MD, FACS, a colorectal surgeon and key member of the Spectrum Health Cancer Center.

Prostate cancer

The toll of prostate cancer alone is considerable: It’s responsible each year for more than 26,000 deaths. In 2020, an estimated 33,330 deaths from this disease will occur, and 191,930 men in the United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer.

For reasons that remain unclear, the risk of prostate cancer is 70 percent higher in African Americans than in non-Hispanic whites, Dr. Kim said.

There are no early symptoms, but in more advanced cases, signs may include: difficulty urinating; weak or interrupted flow, sometimes with pain or blood; and a frequent need to go.

The risk factors include increasing age, African ancestry and family history.

Lung cancer

Also on the list for men is lung cancer. Lung cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in men. Lung cancer makes up about 13% of all new cancer diagnoses, making it the second most common cancer in both men and women. This year, an estimated 228,820 adults (116,300 men and 112,520 women) in the United States will be diagnosed with lung cancer. This includes people diagnosed with both SCLC and NSCLC. About 13% of people diagnosed with lung cancer have SCLC.

In fact, it remains the leading cause of cancer death in men, Dr. Kim said.

Symptoms of lung cancer may not appear until the disease is advanced. These include persistent cough, sputum streaked with blood, chest pain, voice change, worsening short­ness of breath and recurrent pneumonia or bronchitis.

Colon cancer

The bad news: This year, an estimated 147,950 adults in the United States will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. These numbers include 104,610 new cases of colon cancer (52,340 men and 52,270 women) and 43,340 new cases of rectal cancer (25,960 men and 17,380 women).

The good news: Colon cancer rates have been decreasing since the mid 1980s because men are smoking less, using fewer nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and undergoing more regular screening from age 50 onward.

In its early stages colon cancer doesn’t usually have symptoms, but more advanced indications can include rectal bleeding; blood in the stool; changes in bowel habits; abdominal cramping; decreased appetite; and weight loss, according to Dr. Kim.

While the risk of colon cancer increases with age, Dr. Kim said, other risk factors include obesity, physical inactivity, long-term smoking, high consumption of red or pro­cessed meat, low calcium intake, moderate to heavy alcohol consumption and very low intake of fruit and vegetables.

One of the biggest factors in all three cancers is smoking, which should be avoided altogether, Dr. Kim said.

Ultimately, it’s up to the individual to minimize possible risk factors and remain proactive with regular screenings and checkups.

“Review your circumstances with your primary care doctor,” Dr. Kim said. “Screening generally should start in the 50-year-old range, but that may vary depending upon a man’s family history, personal history and if he smokes.”