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Men in Middle Age: Prostates, Cancers, and Other Scary Things

By Tom Herrin

Men in Middle Age: Prostates, Cancers, and Other Scary Things

Aging typically brings with it maturity and wisdom. There is a reason they are called the golden years. Greater experience and overall perspective can make life a bit easier to manage. However, growing older also brings physical and sometimes mental decline, and a greater likelihood of certain diseases and health problems.

Here are some issues that are gender-specific. Older men have their share of problems that need to be screened for on a regular basis. There are also risk factors associated with all of these potential health issues; men in one or more of these categories need to be even more vigilant about their overall health.

The place to begin with male health problems is a part of the body that only men have: the prostate.

Prostate Problems

The prostate gland is a small organ located beneath the bladder. It is wrapped around the tube that urine travels through to exit the body. The prostate aids in reproduction. In most men, the prostate tends to grow as they age. If it gets too large, it can create prostate problems with severe consequences. The age of 50 is when men should start to worry about their prostate.

Enlarged Prostate

One of the more common, non-cancerous prostate issues is benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). This is when the prostate is enlarged enough to cause physical problems. Common symptoms are:

  • Difficulty urinating
  • Pain or a burning sensation when urinating
  • More frequently using the bathroom especially getting up multiple times each night
  • Bloody discharge
  • Painful ejaculations

These symptoms should not be ignored. Make an appointment with your health care professional to have a prostate examination immediately. In fact, upon reaching the age of 50, men should have a prostate screening during their annual physical examinations. Younger guys like to share horror stories about how bad they think this procedure is. None of them are true. I am well over 50 and have had many prostate screenings. Although I can’t call it a pleasant experience, it is a very brief examination and not that bad. Don’t put your life at risk over unfounded fears.

Prostate Cancer

Cancer has claimed the lives of many men and women. What cancer commonly affects men in middle age? For men, prostate cancer is one of the most common types.

Although any man can get prostate cancer, there are some who are at higher risk. Black men are the highest risk ethnic group followed by Hispanic and then Native American men. Asian Americans are the lowest-risk ethnicity.

If you have a family history of prostate cancer -- especially if your father or a brother have had it -- you are at greater risk. Diets that are high in fat also increase your risk of prostate cancer.

Diagnosing Prostate Cancer

If your doctor finds any lumps, unusually hard or soft spots, or an unusual shape to your prostate, or if you feel pain during an exam, the doctor will order further tests. They will take a urine sample to send to a lab and order a blood test known as PSA testing. Your PSA level is the amount of prostate-specific antigens in your blood. This level is generally high in men with prostate cancer or an enlarged prostate.

If there are indications that you may have prostate cancer, you will be referred to a urologist who will do a prostate biopsy. This involves removing a small piece of the gland to examine it for cancer cells. You may also be given an ultrasound.

A prostate cancer screening is extensive for good reasons. One in 8 men is diagnosed with prostate cancer. Early detection greatly increases the effectiveness of treatment and survivability. Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among men, trailing only lung cancer. Don’t risk it. Get your screenings.

Other Cancer Risks for Middle-Aged Men

Although prostate cancer is the most common type in men, there are others to guard against. It’s good to be aware of the risk factors and have screenings for these health perils as well.

Lung Cancer

The number one cancerous killer of men is lung cancer. Naturally, those at the biggest risk are smokers. Consider quitting this unhealthy habit if you do it. However, many people who have never smoked get lung cancer.

Cancer can evolve from second-hand smoke or breathing in harmful particles. People who work in foundries, firefighters, or anyone around smoke or dirty air has a higher risk factor. If you are over 50 and in a high-risk category, it’s a good idea to have a lung cancer screening even if you are not having symptoms. As with other forms of cancer, early detection increases the probability of successful treatment.

Skin Cancer

A form of cancer that is often overlooked is skin cancer. It may not seem deadly but an untreated basal cell or squamous cell cancer can kill you. People with fair skin are at higher risk and should see a dermatologist yearly.

Skin cancer is most commonly caused by exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun or a tanning bed. Preventive measures such as wearing sunscreen, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses should always be taken while out in the sun. This includes the winter season; a bright day in January is potentially just as dangerous as one in July.

If you have family members who have had skin cancer, you are at greater risk. Your risk factor is also higher if you have had it in the past. It’s important to be extremely cautious. I had a basal cell cancer spot a few years ago. It was removed and now I see my dermatologist once a year, protect myself from the sun, and regularly examine my skin.

What Else Should Middle-Aged Men Worry About?

Prostate issues and cancer are just a couple of the problems middle-aged men should be concerned with. From the age of 40, most doctors recommended that men have a complete physical once a year, and many recommend a six-month checkup in-between. This can help find markers of other health risks and treat them before they become serious.


Hypertension, or high blood pressure, can afflict anyone but it is more common in men. In fact, 46 percent of men aged 20 and older have hypertension. That number soars to 59 percent by age 45 and 67 percent by age 55. Black men, men who are obese, and those with high-sodium content in their diets are at greater risk.

Hypertension can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Your blood pressure is generally taken every time you see a doctor. Regular screenings are important. You can even monitor the situation yourself as many pharmacies and supermarkets have blood pressure machines. This is a good idea if you are in a high-risk category. Reducing the amount of salt in your diet is also recommended.

Heart Disease

The leading cause of death globally is heart disease. It can afflict either gender but men are twice as likely to experience a heart attack; their risk of death from it is 17 percent higher.

Obesity, high cholesterol, a poor diet, and a sedentary lifestyle all increase the risk of heart disease, as does having it run in your family. Taking good care of yourself by eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, sleeping well, and regularly having checkups from medical professionals can go a long way toward preventing heart disease.


CDC statistics show that 11 percent of the American population has either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The risk increases as you age, and it is more prevalent in men than women. Diabetes can result in blindness, amputation of limbs, or death.

Risk factors include obesity, poor diet, and a lack of exercise. A healthy lifestyle, combined with carefully monitoring your intake of sugars and complex carbohydrates, can help prevent type 2 diabetes. It can be managed with medication, but the best defense is not to get it in the first place.

Inherent Problems of Aging

Aging tends to increase the likelihood of many health problems. Men, in particular, need to be careful upon reaching middle age because they are at greater risk for many of these issues. A healthy lifestyle, coupled with regular medical screenings, can help prevent these diseases, can help catch them early enough for successful treatment, and can help increase your lifespan.

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