New York State Department of Health Urges Men to Prioritize their Health During Men's Health Week

Getting Recommended Cancer and Diabetes Screenings are Among the Preventive Health Care Precautions Men are Encouraged to Undergo

Commissioner: "Deferred Maintenance is Not An Option When it Comes to Your Health."

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 16, 2023) – The New York State Department of Health is urging men across New York to ensure they are taking care of their own health in observance of Men's Health Week June 13-19. Having a primary care doctor and getting regular medical examinations, including cancer screenings, as well as following a healthy lifestyle, are key components of preventive care that can lead to better health outcomes.

"Generally speaking, men as a cohort tend to avoid seeking medical attention unless they are quite ill, and can be even more reluctant when it comes to preventive care," State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "We all know the concept of 'deferred maintenance' when it comes to home projects and automobiles, but it's truly unwise to defer when it comes your health. I urge all New Yorkers, and particularly men, to follow recommendations for regular cancer screenings, as well as guidelines for a healthy lifestyle, like eating more fruits, vegetables and grains, avoiding over-indulging on sweets and alcohol, and engaging in regular physical activity."

Some types of cancer are more prevalent among men than women. Colorectal cancer is more common in men, and men are less likely than women to be up-to-date with colorectal cancer screening. Screening can detect precancerous growths that can be removed before then turn into cancer. The risk for colorectal cancer increases with age, family history, obesity, diet, smoking, and heavy alcohol consumption. Men who eat a lot of ultra-processed foods, such as ready-to-eat items and sugary drinks, are 29% more likely to develop colorectal cancer compared to men who eat this type of food less frequently.

The New York State Cancer Services Program (CSP) offers free colorectal cancer screening and diagnostic service to those who are eligible. To find the nearest CSP, visit here or call 1-866-442-CANCER (1-866-442-2262).

Prostate cancer occurs mainly in older men, with roughly two-thirds of cases diagnosed in men aged 65 and older. The disease is also more prevalent in Black men than in White men, with Black men 1.5 times more likely to get prostate cancer and almost twice as likely to die of the disease compared to White men. Men whose close relatives, such as a father, brother, or son, have had prostate cancer are also more likely to develop the disease.

These steps may help reduce the risk of developing both types of cancer:

  • Choose a healthy diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and eat less red and processed meats, such as bacon, sausage, and luncheon meat.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • If you smoke, quit, or at least keep trying to quit. Contact 1-866-NYQUITS (1-866-697-8487), text 716-309-4688, or visit the NYS Smoker's Quitline. Protect yourself and your loved ones from exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Be aware of family medical history and discuss concerns with a health care provider.
  • Discuss and get recommended cancer screenings with a health care provider.

Men are also more likely than women to be diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer and are more likely to die from melanoma than women. The risk also increases with age, especially for men over age 50.

The best way to lower the risk of developing skin cancer is to avoid exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can come from natural light, even on a cloudy day, and from indoor tanning devices. These are some of the ways to reduce exposure to UV radiation:

  • Never use a tanning bed or booth, or a sun lamp.
  • Wear a wide brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants whenever possible when outdoors.
  • Wear sunglasses that block UV rays, which can also reduce the risk of cataracts.
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, which blocks out 93% of UV rays. Sunscreen should be applied to dry skin at least 15-minutes before going outdoors, and again after swimming or perspiring.
  • Avoid the direct midday sun, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun's rays are strongest.

Men are also at higher risk for other serious diseases, including heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the United States. To lower the risk of heart disease, men are encouraged to:

  • Know their blood pressure and have it checked regularly.
  • Talk to their health care provider about being tested for diabetes.
  • Quit smoking and if you don't smoke, don't start.
  • Eat healthy foods and limit alcohol intake.
  • Learn ways to cope with stress and lower your stress level.

Type 2 diabetes is another disease that can disproportionately impact men, and particularly Black and Hispanic men. Earlier this year, the Department launched a campaign to encourage Black and Hispanic men to take a prediabetes risk test. Prediabetes, in which a person's blood sugar level is higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes, can develop into type 2 diabetes. Information about preventing type 2 diabetes by participating in a lifestyle change program is available through the National Diabetes Prevention Program.

Another health concern men tend to ignore is mental health. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention cites Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Data and Statistics for 2021 that show the rate of suicide in the U.S. is highest in middle-aged white men, with men dying by suicide nearly four times more often than women.

Left untreated, mental health disorders can also lead to high-risk behaviors including substance abuse, gambling, and other forms of addiction. Resources to prevent suicide and self-harm are available here.

Additional information and resources about men's health can be found here.