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An Open Letter to the NFL: Why We <em>Can't</em> Neglect Prostate Cancer

More than 32,000 American fathers, husbands, brothers, sons and friends will die this year from prostate cancer. Yet, it seems there's very little emphasis on this issue.
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Dear Commissioner Goodell,

In October the National Football League ensured that its many millions of fans saw pink -- the symbolic color for breast cancer awareness. With almost 39,840 women expected to die this year from breast cancer, says the National Cancer Institute, the NFL's "Crucial Catch" campaign played a huge part in making many Americans aware of this disease, so that support can follow for new treatments and an ultimate cure.

But did you know that almost as many American men die each year from prostate cancer? The NCI estimates that more than 32,000 American fathers, husbands, brothers, sons and friends will die this year from that disease. Yet the NFL has yet to provide similar support for prostate cancer.

Indeed, there's very little emphasis on men's health issues in today's society. Men are less prone to visit a doctor or to speak of health issues. Yet men are just as likely to die from various ailments, including prostate cancer.

The NFL's enormous reach did enormous good for breast cancer awareness, and we should all thank you. When players, coaches and even officials wore pink apparel during games, it spiked awareness, and surely spurred action by many more women to get screened for breast cancer. That being the case, the inevitable result will be that the NFL's $10 million Crucial Catch campaign will have the greatest and grandest effect possible: It will save lives.

Yet more lives need saving, too. And that's why I'm asking you to throw the league's full support behind next year's Prostate Cancer Awareness month, September 2011.

Millions of boys grow up watching NFL games, and the rarely discussed disease of prostate cancer will wind up killing them at an alarming rate. In fact, prostate cancer is now the most commonly diagnosed cancer among men. The NCI estimates that 217,230 cases will be diagnosed this year, more than the 207,090 cases of breast cancer that it expects will be diagnosed.

As with breast cancer, the NFL could use its massive resources and drawing power to shed light on a topic that needs far great examination. Clearly, the NFL can make a difference -- and so it should. Besides, it's never too early to start educating young men and raising their awareness of men's health issues.

Prostate cancer often is considered an "old man's disease," but it's anything but. In fact, I was diagnosed this year at age 35. Up until then, like most Americans, I knew nothing about it. Now I do -- and I want to share that knowledge with the NFL's help.

Numbers don't lie: One in six of your players, referees and men in your front office - not to mention the male true believers in the stands and watching on TV - are at risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer. On top of that, this cancer has a higher rate among African-American men, who dominate your players' ranks.

I wasn't aware of what the NFL does to encourage prostate cancer screening, so I sought information. Scrolling down to the bottom of the homepage, I clicked on "In the Community." This took me to "Join the Team." There, I clicked on "Health." There I found a link to learn more under "Know Your Stats About Prostate Cancer." I then found a hyperlink to a separate site,, which stated the following:

The National Football League joins forces with the American Urological Association (AUA) Foundation to encourage men over 40 to talk with their doctors about prostate cancer, their PSA (prostate-specific antigen) score and getting regular physicals.

But so far, from the world's most powerful sports league, that seems to be it.

Now that can change. If the NFL can launch an effort for prostate cancer as it did with breast cancer in Crucial Catch, then local and national support next September will:

* Raise Awareness: A sea of blue will put a spotlight on prostate cancer.
* Prompt Action: More men will get cancer screenings, with early detection vitally important.
* Raise Money: Fund-raising efforts will ensure better treatments and help find a cure.
* Save Lives: With the NFL's action comes support. With support comes a greater chance of survival for all men.

September 2011 is just 10 months away, but I know developing campaigns takes time, so it's not too early. My hope is that the NFL, the American Cancer Society and the Prostate Cancer Foundation soon will join forces and announce a campaign for September 2011 -- a campaign that will make a difference by raising awareness and, most importantly, by saving lives.


Gabe Canales

Houston, Texas

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