Essential Health Tests for Men at Any Age

Essential Health Tests for Men at Any Age

Track your health with these screening tests.

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By Patrick Sullivan

It’s never too early—or too late—to start preventive care. Men may hate going to the doctor, but they’re doing themselves and their loved ones a disservice if they don’t go. “One of the most important things for men’s health is for men to show up to the doctor and not let the fear of what might be keep them from preventive care,” says Christopher Holloway, MD, a primary care physician with TriStar Southern Hills Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. “Early detection is best because it gives you a significant survival benefit.” Here are the most important health tests for men, no matter their age.

When Screenings Start

2 / 9 When Screenings Start

Family history and other risk factors have a big impact on what doctors will screen you for, and when, according to Dr. Holloway. “If you follow the guidelines, for most individuals a colon cancer screen will begin at age 50. But certain individuals, depending on race and family history, might start in their 40s,” he says. “We might or might not perform an EKG on a man in his 20s, but that’s dictated by symptoms and family history. We might or might not begin digital rectal exam screenings for prostate cancer in the 40s.” 

Cholesterol and Blood Pressure Screenings

3 / 9 Cholesterol and Blood Pressure Screenings

Unhealthy cholesterol levels and high blood pressure are two of the biggest contributors to atherosclerosis, which can cause a stroke or heart attack. To get a handle on both your cholesterol and blood pressure levels, have them checked regularly, starting at age 20 and continuing throughout your life, according to Holloway. 

Blood Glucose Screening

4 / 9 Blood Glucose Screening

About 15.5 million men had diabetes in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s two million more men than women. The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends blood sugar screening for overweight or obese people aged 40 to 70 (both men and women), but the American Diabetes Association disagrees, noting that the rate of undiagnosed diabetes is 60 percent higher in people aged 20 to 44 than the population as a whole. An A1C test, a fasting plasma glucose test or an oral glucose tolerance test can all be used to screen for diabetes. 

Prostate Exam

5 / 9 Prostate Exam

Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer for men in the US, next to skin cancer. There are two types of screening tests. The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test measures PSA, a substance in the blood that gets produced by the prostate in higher amounts in men with prostate cancer. For the second type of test, a digital rectal exam, a healthcare practitioner will insert a finger in the rectum and check the prostate for lumps. “Family history will dictate if we start prostate screenings at 50 or earlier,” says Holloway. Prostate cancer screening is a choice, however; it can cause both false positives and false negatives, so talk to your doctor about whether it’s right for you.  

Colorectal Cancer Screening

6 / 9 Colorectal Cancer Screening

The ACS predicts nearly 50,000 deaths from colon cancer in 2016. Men have a slightly higher chance for getting colon cancer than women. Colon cancer screenings usually start at age 50, but a January 2016 study of more than 258,000 people published in the journal CANCER found that nearly 15 percent of people with colon cancer developed it before age 50. The USPSTF recommends fecal tests (with or without a flexible sigmoidoscopy) and colonoscopies as the main screening methods, but there are other options as well.

Skin Exam

7 / 9 Skin Exam

The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that over 17,000 more men than women will be diagnosed with melanoma by the end of 2016. Your healthcare provider can perform a brief visual skin check at every visit but you should be doing them yourself as well. Check each mole for the ABCDEs: asymmetry, irregular borders, a variety of colors, a large diameter and evolution or change over time. For people who have had melanoma in the past, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends a full-body skin check from a dermatologist at least once a year. For everyone else a dermatologist will recommend a screening schedule based on individual risk factors.

Bone Density Test

8 / 9 Bone Density Test

Osteoporosis is often thought of as a condition that affects mainly women, especially menopausal women, but there are some cases where a bone density test—which checks for osteoporosis and bone loss—might be a good idea for men, too. “Men who are hypogonadal should be checked for osteoporosis,” says Holloway. “Maybe they’ve used steroids. But any man that shows low bone mass or unexplained fractures might qualify for a bone density test.” 

Aneurysm Screening

9 / 9 Aneurysm Screening

Men over age 65 who are or were smokers should be screened for abdominal aortic aneurysm, says Holloway. “That’s anyone who’s smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their life,” he added. An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a weakness in the wall of the aorta—the main artery of the body—that causes it to balloon out, and may cause it to burst. The screening is done by ultrasound.