14 Essential Health Screenings That All Men Should Consider
Medically reviewed by Leigh Ann Anderson, PharmD. Last updated on April 6, 2021.
1. Hepatitis C Virus
If you are a baby-boomer, listen up. Those born between 1945 and 1965 should get a one-time test for hepatitis C virus (HCV). You should also be tested if you have ever injected drugs, or if you received a blood transfusion before 1992.
HCV is a bloodborne disease and a top cause of:
- chronic liver disease
- possible liver cancer
- liver transplant
To complicate matters, symptoms of HCV may not appear for 20 to 30 years after infection, so the disease may develop quietly for decades without your knowledge. Roughly 30 percent of those infected with HCV will eventually develop liver cirrhosis.
Curative, orally administered treatments are now available for HCV, so treatment is easier and a cure for most people is possible.
2. Blood Pressure
You should have your blood pressure checked every 2 years if your blood pressure is normal (less than 120/80 mmHg). However, you may need it checked more often depending upon if you take blood pressure medications, if you are older, or have other health risks. Check with your doctor if your blood pressure is over 120/80 mmHg.
Your doctor will most likely check your blood pressure every time you have an office visit. This is wise and should be expected, as high blood pressure can lead to some of the most difficult complications in health. On top of that, high blood pressure does not usually have symptoms you would notice otherwise.
Some of the results of unchecked high blood pressure include:
- Heart attack or heart failure
- Eye disease
- Metabolic syndrome
- Small vessel disease
- Problems with understanding or memory (cognition)
- Kidney disease
3. Colorectal Cancer
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening for colorectal cancer in adults beginning at age 50 and continuing until age 75. Options include:
- Fecal occult blood testing
- Colonoscopy in adults.
Risks and benefits of each method vary, and should be discussed with a healthcare provider. The decision to screen for colorectal cancer in adults aged 76 to 85 years should be an individual one, taking into account the patient’s overall health and prior screening history.
A colonoscopy looks for abnormal growths called polyps or areas of bleeding in your large intestine. Your doctor uses an instrument called a colonoscope to view the colon. If you have a family history of colon cancer, you may need to start this test earlier than 50.
A colonoscopy requires sedation, and you can go home the same day, usually after a few hours; however, you will need to take the day off from work and have someone else drive you home.
Laxative bowel preps are required prior to the colonoscopy to clear the bowel, and there are some that can be started early in the evening the night before, such as Suprep, so as to not interfere with a full day of work - ask your doctor about these options. Low volume options are available, too, so you don't have to drink as much fluid which can be difficult on the stomach for some people.
If you find that you aren’t enjoying life as you used to -- for example, you feel sad, hopeless, cry frequently, or don’t have any interest in social activities you used to enjoy, talk to your doctor. You may need to be screened for depression.
Changes in your emotions are just as important, if not more so, than changes in your body.
Depression can interfere with your family life, work life and quality of life. Many effective methods of depression treatment -- from talk therapy to effective medications -- can help you overcome depression.
Your family doctor may recommend a specialist, too, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist, to really help pinpoint any issues and get you back to an enjoyable life.
5. Prediabetes and Diabetes
If you have heart problems like high blood pressure or carry a lot of excess weight, you should be screened for type 2 diabetes. Tests involve one or more blood sugar tests; your doctor will determine the best option.
The fact is that most people with prediabetes will develop full-blown diabetes within 10 years or sooner if action is not taken. Nearly 90% of people with prediabetes don't know they have it. So it makes good sense to talk to your doctor about testing for this dangerous condition.
Left untreated, diabetes can damage your heart, eyes, feet, nervous system, and brain. Treatment usually consists of oral diabetes medications and possibly insulin. Plus, your doctor will offer suggestions on ways to reduce your risk of developing diabetes by maintaining a healthy weight and exercising.
6. Cholesterol Tests
Unfavorable blood cholesterol alterations, which can consist of:
- elevations in LDL (“bad” cholesterol)
- reductions in HDL (“good” cholesterol)
- elevations in triglycerides
can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
The American Heart Association recommends all people aged 20 or older, without any history of heart disease, get their cholesterol levels checked every five years. However, recommendations for the age of first screening vary, so check with your doctor.
People with certain risk factors like:
- tobacco use
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- a strong family history for high cholesterol
should get their levels checked more frequently and at a younger age. If you have elevated cholesterol, you'll need to have it tested more often, too (usually at least once a year). Screening involves a simple blood test. You may need to fast before this test for 8 to 12 hours, so try to schedule your appointment first thing in the morning.
7. Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
A ruptured abdominal aorta can result in fatal internal bleeding. However, this is an easy, painless test and it might save your life.
For men between the ages of 65 and 75 who have ever smoked, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends one-time screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) with an ultrasound. If you have never smoked, your doctor will discuss if this test is needed.
During an ultrasound, you lie in a table and a technician slides some gel and a device over your stomach. A monitor shows the area, and the results will determine if there is a bulging in the aorta which might need repair.
Although it may seem like it has fallen off the urgency radar, HIV is still an important health threat.
According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), those groups that should be screened for HIV include:
- Everyone aged 15 to 65 years
- Teens younger than age 15 and adults older than 65 at increased risk for HIV
- All pregnant women, including women in labor whose HIV status is not known.
The test is simple -- HIV is diagnosed by a regular blood test. The earlier you are diagnosed, the quicker you can start life-saving treatment, if needed.
If you have high risk behavior, like unprotected sex or IV drug use, you may need to be tested more frequently. However, it’s best to learn the ways to prevent HIV infection and avoid risky behavior.
Advances in treatment today allow many HIV patients to now live an average life expectancy. Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) with drugs such as Truvada or Descovy for the prevention of HIV infection can prevent HIV transmission in up to 95% or more of patients.
Related Reading: HIV & AIDS Update: New Treatments, Easier Options
9. Lung Cancer
Lung cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., and it is the number one cancer that leads to death in men.
To lower your lung cancer risk take these actions:
- quit smoking
- avoid secondhand smoke.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends all adults aged 55 to 80 years who have at least a 20 pack-year smoking history and currently smoke, or have quit within the past 15 years, be screened for lung cancer each year with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT). These guidelines were updated in 2021.
Screening should be discontinued once a person has not smoked for 15 years or develops a health problem that substantially limits life expectancy or the ability or willingness to have curative lung surgery.
What is a pack-year? A person could have a 20 pack-year history by, for example, smoking one pack a day for 20 years or two packs a day for 10 years.
Screening is done with a low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) test, an x-ray of the lungs. CT scans can be cost-effective and save lives if used in the right patient population and by skilled providers.
Obesity is a national epidemic that can lead to many serious health risks, including heart disease and high blood pressure, diabetes, joint problems, and even cancer.
Experts recommends screening all adults (18 years and older) for overweight or obesity.
Doctors should offer or refer patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 kg/m2 or higher to intensive, multicomponent behavioral interventions; such as diet, exercise, behavioral modification, or possibly weight reduction surgery.
Your BMI can be calculated here.
In addition, waist size should be taken into account. People with abdominal (stomach) obesity are at an increased risk for overall death, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood lipids like cholesterol, and fatty liver disease. A waist circumference of ≥40 in (102 cm) for men and ≥35 in (88 cm) for women is considered elevated and suggests an increased risk.
Talk to your doctor if you have weight concerns, your BMI is not within normal limits, or you are outside the limits for a healthy waist size.
11. Immunizations (Vaccines)
Consider having your primary care doctor review your immunization history. Here are some basics:
- Get a flu shot every fall (Sept. to Oct. timeframe in the US).
- Get a COVID vaccine now to protect you, your family and community from SARS-CoV-2 infection if you have not had one. It is not currently known if repeat vaccinations will be needed for COVID protection.
- If you are 50 or older, the CDC now recommends that all adults get a shot to help prevent shingles (herpes zoster), even if you have had shingles before or already had a Zostavax shingles vaccine. Shingrix (recombinant zoster vaccine) is now preferred over Zostavax (zoster vaccine live) for the prevention of shingles and related complications because it's more effective. CDC recommends two doses of Shingrix separated by 2 to 6 months for healthy adults.
- If you are 65 or older and healthy, you will need protection against pneumonia. If you have certain medical conditions or a weakened immune system, you will need vaccination earlier; however, the interval and the dosing schedule varies. In addition, adults 19 through 64 years old who smoke cigarettes also need vaccination.
- Every ten years, get a tetanus booster. If you have never had a dose of Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough), or are unsure of your vaccination status, the CDC recommends you get one dose of Tdap as an adult or adolescent.
- Several other vaccinations (such as MMR, chickenpox) are also recommended if you didn't receive them as a child, and others (such as hepatitis B, Hib) are recommended if you have certain medical conditions.
- Vaccine recommendations can change, so ask your doctor if you need any vaccines. The CDC also has a list of all needed vaccines.
12. Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is one of the most frequent cancer among men in the U.S. The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) updated their screening recommendations for prostate cancer in May 2018.
The latest USPSTF statement states that the decision about whether to be screened for prostate cancer in men 55 to 69 years should be an individual one. Screening offers a small potential benefit of reducing the chance of dying of prostate cancer, but harms from testing may occur, too, so the decision to move forward with screening should be an informed one. However, the USPSTF recommends against PSA-based screening for prostate cancer in men age 70 years and older.
The American Cancer Society recommends that average risk men should talk to their doctor about whether to be screened for prostate cancer starting at age 50 (if expected to live 10 years or more).
- Men who are younger and at higher risk should consider screening at age 45, including African-American men and men who have a first-degree relative (father or brother) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age (younger than age 65).
- Any man at 40 years of age with two or more first-degree relatives (father or brother) with a history of prostate cancer at an early age should talk to their doctor about screening.
13. Testicular Cancer
Most testicular cancer patients are between the ages of 20 and 40. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) currently recommends against screening adolescent or adult men without symptoms for testicular cancer (Grade D).
The evidence suggests that screening will not offer meaningful health benefits, given the very low incidence and high cure rate of even advanced testicular cancer. According to USPSTF, regardless of disease stage, a majority of all newly diagnosed cases of testicular cancer will be cured.
However, some studies report that self-examination may be cost-effective. Discuss screening for testicular cancer with your physician to gather more information for your specific health history.
14. Skin Cancer (Melanoma)
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined.
- It’s estimated that new melanoma cases diagnosed in 2021 will go up by almost 4.8 percent. An estimated 207,390 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2021.
- An estimated 7,180 people will die of melanoma in 2021 and 4,600 of these deaths will be men.
- Men age 49 and under have a higher chance of developing melanoma than any other type of cancer. Between ages 15 to 39, men are 55% more likely to die of melanoma than women in the same age group.
Nonetheless, skin cancer screening recommendations are conflicting and often not paid for in the US by most medical insurances. The USPSTF concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of visual skin examination by a clinician to screen for skin cancer in healthy adults, and this is one reason insurance will not pay for it.
Some clinicians recommend a skin exam every 6 months if you have a family history of melanoma or a personal history of skin cancer. Yet others groups recommend a yearly head-to-toe skin cancer check with your dermatologist and monthly self-exams.
If you have a strong history of skin cancer in your family, a suspected skin cancer, or a prior personal history of skin cancer, this should prompt a discussion with your doctor about your specific need for skin cancer screening, and at what intervals.
Finished: 14 Essential Health Screenings That All Men Should Consider
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- The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Published Recommendations. Colorectal cancer screening. 2016. Accessed April 6, 2021 at https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/recommendation/colorectal-cancer-screening
- What is Cholesterol? American Heart Association. Accessed April 6, 2021 at https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cholesterol
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2019 Recommended Immunizations for Adults: By Age. Accessed April 6, 2021 at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/downloads/adult/adult-combined-schedule.pdf
- American Cancer Society. Testing for Prostate Cancer. Accessed April 6, 2021 at https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/early-detection/acs-recommendations.html
- The Skin Cancer Foundation. Skin Cancer Facts and Statistics. Accessed April 6, 2021 at http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/skin-cancer-facts
- Lung Cancer: Screening. USPSTF. Accessed April 6, 2021 at http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/UpdateSummaryFinal/lung-cancer-screening
- Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm: Screening. USPSTF. Accessed April 6, 2021 at https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/recommendation/abdominal-aortic-aneurysm-screening
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection: Screening. USPSTF. Accessed April 6, 2021 at https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/UpdateSummaryFinal/human-immunodeficiency-virus-hiv-infection-screening
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.