Blokes urged to get lean and screen during Men's Health Week

Tuesday 4 June, 2013
  • 15,913 men diagnosed with cancer in Victoria in 2010 compared to 12,450 women
  • 5,999 men died from cancer in Victoria in 2010 compared to 4,674 women

Victorian men are being urged to commit to some lifestyle changes this week (Men's Health Week) to cut their cancer risk.

They're also being asked to screen for bowel cancer and keep an eye out for any changing spots that could be skin cancer.

Director of Cancer Council Victoria's Prevention Division, 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 and not being SunSmart, 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."

Beat bowel cancer

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.

"It's our second biggest cancer killer yet 90% of cases could be cured if found early enough. That's why it's so important to screen for bowel cancer."

FOBTs are designed to find bleeding in a bowel motion caused by polyps (growths in the lining of the bowel). This bleeding can be invisible to the human eye.

"If it's left until symptoms appear, such as looser or more frequent bowel motions, bleeding after going to the toilet, stomach pains, constipation or fatigue, it can be much harder to treat successfully.

"We strongly encourage men and women aged 50 and over to complete an FOBT every two years."

In Victoria in 2010, 2075 men were diagnosed with bowel cancer and 734 men died.

Bowel cancer screening tests (FOBTs) are sent to all Australians aged 50, 55, 60 and 65 as part of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. For those aged over 50 and not in the above age groups, speak to your GP or purchase an FOBT from Cancer Council Victoria (you can also order through our Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20). FOBTs are also available at some pharmacies and through some health care funds.

Detect skin cancer early

Melanoma is the fourth most common cancer in Victorian men (behind prostate, bowel and lung). 2,044 Victorians were diagnosed with melanoma in 2011 (five diagnoses every day). Of these, 57% were men (1,161) and 43% were women (883).

This is particularly tragic given 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," said Mr Sinclair.

Get the word on prostate cancer

"We also encourage men to make time to speak to a health professional, especially when it comes to prostate cancer," Mr Sinclair said.

He said men should discuss with their GP whether a PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test is right for them 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.

Further information on prostate cancer and PSA testing can be found by visiting Cancer Council Australia's position statement on prostate cancer.    

Updated: 04 Jun, 2013