Victorian men are being urged to take up healthier lifestyles and diets to help cut their cancer risk. And the perfect week to consider doing it is this week (Men's Health Week).
Cancer Council Victoria's Cancer Prevention Centre Director Craig Sinclair said statistics showed men were more likely to be diagnosed and die from cancer in Victoria.
"One in three cancers are lifestyle related and therefore, preventable," Mr Sinclair said. "Research shows drinking, smoking, being overweight, a lack of exercise, not wearing sunscreen and protective clothing during days with a high UV rating all heighten the risk of cancer," he said.
"We're asking blokes to think about how their lifestyle is affecting their health and go see their doctor to discuss what screening is appropriate for them."
Mr Sinclair said a simple-at home bowel screening test called a faecal occult blood test (FOBT) was one of the best ways to find the signs of bowel cancer in its early stages for men aged 50 and older.
"In its early stages, bowel cancer often has no visible symptoms – it means many seemingly healthy men across Victoria could have bowel cancer and not know it," Mr Sinclair said. "That's why it's so important to screen for bowel cancer."
FOBTs are designed to detect bleeding in a bowel motion caused by polyps (growths in the lining of the bowel). This bleeding can be invisible to the human eye. Mr Sinclair said catching bowel cancer in the early stages gave men (and women) the best chance of survival.
"In 90% of cases, bowel cancer is curable if it's detected early," he said. "If it's left until symptoms appear, such as looser or more frequent bowel motions, stomach pains, constipation or fatigue, it can be much harder to treat successfully.
"We encourage men and women aged 50 and over to complete an FOBT every two years in line with Government and health organisation recommendations."
In Victoria in 2010, 2075 men were diagnosed with bowel cancer and 734 men died.
Melanoma is the fourth most common cancer in Victorian men (behind prostate, bowel and lung) yet tragically skin cancer is one of our most preventable cancers. Over 95% of skin cancers can be successfully treated if found early. However if left untreated, skin cancer can be fatal.
"Sun protection and early detection matters at any age. It's important to get to know your skin and what is normal for you so changes will be quickly noticed. If you notice anything unusual, including any change in shape, colour or size of a spot, or the development of a spot, visit your doctor," Mr Sinclair said.
"We also encourage men to speak to a health professional, especially when it comes to prostate cancer," Mr Sinclair said.
He said men should discuss their need for a PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test before going ahead with it.
A PSA test looks for changes in hormone (protein) levels in the blood which may indicate changes in the prostate. However, changes in the hormone level do not necessarily indicate cancer.
"There are pros and cons to getting a PSA test and men should seek medical advice before making any decisions, especially if they have a family history of cancer," Mr Sinclair said.
Bowel cancer screening tests (FOBTs) can be purchased from this website, from some pharmacies or by calling our Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20.