Men and cancer

Even though less than half of the Australian population are men, more men than women are diagnosed with cancer each year.

In 2008 in Australia, 56,158 men were diagnosed with cancer and 22,017 men died from this disease. This means that 20 percent more men than women are diagnosed with cancer and 30 percent more die from it each year. 

Men have a one in two chance of developing cancer before age 85 compared with a one in three chance for women.

Cancers that affect men | How men can reduce their cancer risk | Finding cancer early

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The four most common cancers that affect men

Although prostate cancer and testicular cancer only occur in men, they are not the only cancers that affect men. Men do worse than women for all of the most common cancers, except the gender-specific cancers. To find out more about these cancers, select the links below:

Prostate cancer
Bowel cancer
Skin cancers
Lung cancer

Cancers that only affect men

Prostate cancer
Testicular cancer

Lung cancer

Despite a significant decline in lung cancer deaths among men, it is still the leading cause of cancer deaths in Western Australian men. Lung cancer is mostly a preventable disease, with cigarette smoking by far the main cause.

Testicular cancer

The testicles are the primary male reproductive organ. From the age of puberty, the testicles make sperm, the male reproductive cell. They also make the hormone testosterone. Testicular cancer is a relatively uncommon cancer, accounting for less than one percent of all cancers in Australia. But it is one of the most common cancers diagnosed in males aged between 15 and 45 years. It is not known what causes testicular cancer, but having an undescended testicle increases a man's risk. The good news is that treatment is very effective if testicular cancer is detected early.

All men should be aware of the normal look and feel of their testicles and check with their doctor should any unusual signs or symptoms occur. Regular testicular self-examination (TSE) is not recommended as it may generate more anxiety than it relieves. What is important is that any discomfort, pain, swelling, or change to the normal condition of the testicles is reported to a doctor without delay.

Read more in our testicular cancer brochure.

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How men can reduce their cancer risk

There are a number of things you can do to help reduce your chances (risk) of developing cancer. These include:

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Finding cancer early

Bowel cancer

When found early, bowel cancer treatment is more successful. Men over 50 should consider being screened for bowel cancer every two years using a faecal occult blood test (FOBT). FOBT detects small traces of blood in bowel motions. People with a positive FOBT result are referred to a specialist for more tests for bowel cancer. Men should talk to their GP about screening for bowel cancer. Men 50 and older may be eligible for the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, find out when you'll get a kit. Find out more about bowel cancer screening.

Skin cancer

Regular skin checks increase your chance of finding skin cancer at an early and highly treatable stage. You should check your whole body, not just areas normally exposed to the sun. If you see a new spot on your skin - one that has changed in size, shape or colour or a non-healing sore - see your doctor as soon as you can. Find out more about checking for skin cancer.

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Prostate cancer

Currently there is no no national screening program for prostate cancer because there isn't a suitable test available that can be used for prostate cancer screening. Commonly, the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test and the digital rectal examination (DRE) are used to find prostate cancer. But these tests can suggest a man has cancer when he does not (false positive) and may miss cancers (false negative). It is also not possible to distinguish between aggressive prostate cancers or those that would do no harm.

Finding an aggressive prostate cancer early improves outcomes, but finding an indolent (non-aggressive) prostate cancer early may result in unnecessary treatment. Talk to your GP about the pros and cons of getting tested for prostate cancer. Find our more about prostate cancer testing.

Testicular cancer

There is no early detection test for testicular cancer to detect it before any symptoms are present. Young men should know what their testicles normally look and feel like and seek medical attention if they notice any changes, particularly new lumps or growth.

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