Every year, over 1 million men die in the United States, many from preventable causes that bring life to an end far too early. This is why it’s vital to focus our collective attention on causes of death that might be more avoidable than we think.
June is Men’s Health Month and home to International Men’s Health Week (June 11-17). Coupled with both private- and public-group advocacy, Men’s Health Month also features government-backed health education programs designed to raise awareness about men’s health issues.
The goal? Educating American men and their loved ones about preventable health and injury problems, while also building momentum behind disease treatment and prevention. International Men’s Health Week echoes this message on a global scale, seeking to bring attention to men’s health issues and develop resources and policies to support the effort.
Leading Causes of Death among Men
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States, heart disease is the leading cause of death among men, killing 1 in 4 men each year. Rates for heart disease are higher in the American South and Northeast, and half of the men who die suddenly of coronary heart disease don’t display any previous symptoms. About half of Americans have a significant risk factor for heart disease: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and/or smoking.
Heart disease is followed closely by certain forms of cancers such as prostate, lung, and colorectal, which when combined with chronic lower respiratory disease, accounts for 28 percent of male deaths in the United States.
The problem is, while instances of heart disease and cancer aren’t yet entirely preventable, there is much we can do to lower the risks. Being informed about what the risks are combined with proactive lifestyles meant to combat risks can help men stay alive for longer.
Lung Cancer and Its Many – Ugly – Causes
Statistics from the CDC show that in 2014, lung cancer was diagnosed in over 113,000 men and killed more than 84,000. The risks for lung cancer include smoking, exposure to secondhand smoke, family history, diet, and exposure to radon and other toxic substances, including arsenic, lead, and asbestos. Exposure to these toxic chemicals and substances usually occurs in the workplace.
Let’s take asbestos, for example. Asbestos is classified as a known carcinogen by both the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), as well as the World Health Organization (WHO). Still, in spite of this classification, certain trades and industrial occupations that are traditionally dominated by men may expose workers to asbestos on a daily basis.
Some of these high-risk occupations for asbestos exposure include:
- Construction workers
- Auto mechanics
- Ship builders
- Coal miners
- HVAC technicians
Unfortunately, this list is by no means exhaustive, there are many other occupations that also expose workers to deadly carcinogens likes asbestos. Mesothelioma, the rare form of lung cancer that develops as a result of asbestos exposure, disproportionately affects men – and the kicker? It’s an entirely preventable disease.
Detection and Prevention Resources
Since one of the goals of Men’s Health Month is disease detection and prevention, there are many awareness activities you and your loved ones can participate in during June (or any time of the year).
You can practice Meatless Mondays to fight against heart disease, check screening guidelines to see what how often and at what age you should be checked for potential health issues, and sign up for the Men’s Health Network newsletter to get bi-weekly updates for information and issues about how to stay healthy. To raise awareness, you can also participate in Wear Blue Friday, the Friday of Men’s Health Week: June 15th.
You can also use the online Men’s Health Resource Center to get more information on diseases that affect men, visit the Men’s Health Library to obtain statistics and reports about men’s health, and browse how others have celebrated Men’s Health Month and Men’s Health Week to bring awareness to their communities.