Heart disease and cancer remain the top two leading causes of death in men, accounting for almost half of all deaths. Heart disease is responsible for 24.2% of deaths, while cancer causes 21.9%. Many of these deaths may be preventable through lifestyle changes, as well as earlier detection and treatment.1

To bring awareness to healthcare issues specific to men, Men’s Health Month has been observed every year in June since 1992. It’s a good time to highlight conditions that are more prevalent in men and steps that can be taken to prevent these conditions.

First, we’d like to focus on coronary artery disease (CAD), which is the most common type of heart disease that affects men. Coronary artery disease results from plaque buildup, leading to the narrowing of the critical blood vessels that feed the heart. Angina may occur due to the resulting reduction in blood flow to the heart, while heart attacks are caused by obstruction of blood flow. Men are more likely to develop CAD than women (7.4 % vs. 4.1%)2 and tend to develop it at a younger age.

Two key risk factors for developing coronary artery disease are hyperlipidemia and hypertension. Reducing elevated LDL cholesterol levels and controlling blood pressure in individuals with these conditions diminishes the risk of developing CAD and having a heart attack. Springbuk’s Gaps in Care metrics allow you to identify individuals with hypertension or hyperlipidemia who do not receive appropriate monitoring or treatment. Metrics for individuals who have already been identified with CAD are also available to ensure that these patients are receiving optimal care to reduce the secondary risk of heart attacks. Of course, identification of these individuals is only the first step - the next step is to use strategies like targeted education or outreach to close these gaps.

The second area we’d like to focus on is prevention and screening for colorectal cancer. Did you know that colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer in men? Men are disproportionately affected by colorectal cancer with incidence and death rates that are 30% and 40% higher than women, respectively. Statistics are more dire for black men, who have a 15% higher incidence rate of colorectal cancer than white men, and a 43% higher incidence of death.3

There are several modifiable risk factors for colon cancer. These factors include smoking, alcohol use, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and a low-fiber and high-fat diet. To reduce employees’ risks of colorectal cancer, employers can educate employees and promote programs that reduce risk, including weight loss and smoking cessation programs, as well as programs providing incentives to walk more and maintain a better diet. Within the Springbuk Health Intelligence platform, it is easy to identify individuals who are obese or who smoke for targeted messaging and programs.

Most colorectal cancers begin as benign polyps which grow and become cancerous. In early stages, colorectal cancer may be asymptomatic, which is why colon cancer screening is so important. The USPSTF recommends that individuals ages 50 – 75 receive one of the following tests or combinations of tests4:

  • Stool based testing performed annually – either Guaiac Fecal Occult Blood Test (gFOBT) or Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT)
  • Direct visualization with CT colonography or flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years
  • Direct visualization with colonoscopy every ten years
  • Combination of FIT testing annually and sigmoidoscopy every ten years

Springbuk’s data shows low compliance for colorectal cancer screening – 35.7% overall. Despite having a higher risk of developing and dying from colorectal cancer, men have a lower rate of screening than women – 34.7% compared to 36.9%. Individuals due for colorectal screening are easily identified within the Health Intelligence Platform using the Insights™ Preventive Care: Members Due for Colon Cancer Screening card. One step employers can take to improve compliance is educating employees and their family members on the range of screening options so that they can choose the best option in concert with their clinician. Additional strategies to consider are listed in the Strategy section underneath the Colon Cancer Screening Card.

Our mission at Springbuk is to prevent disease with data. Information that can help drive strategies to reduce risks related to two conditions leading to deaths in men, coronary artery disease, and colorectal cancer, are examples of our commitment to this mission. June would be a great time to visit our platform and review this information.


Meet the Author: Janet Young, M.D.
With more than 30 years of experience, Janet Young has provided clinical expertise to the development of healthcare analytics used in provider, payer, employer, and government sectors. Previously, Janet served as a Lead Clinical Scientist at IBM Watson Health, guiding clinical content development related to new models, methods, and analytics using claims, EMR, Health Risk Assessment, and socio-demographic data. 

Janet joined the Data Science and Methods team at Springbuk in Dec. 2019, and has been responsible for clinical oversight of methods and models. Janet received her M.D. from Yale University School of Medicine.