Athletes Colin Jackson and Donovan Bailey urge prostate cancer 'fear factor'

Colin Jackson Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Colin Jackson founded the charity Go Dad Run in 2013 to raise awareness of prostate cancer

Former athletes Colin Jackson and Donovan Bailey say black men need the "fear factor" to ensure they take prostate cancer seriously.

Current figures suggest one in eight men in the UK will develop the disease at some stage of their life - but for black men of African and Caribbean descent, it is one in four.

"My uncle Ronnie, in Jamaica, died from prostate cancer more than 10 years ago having not wanted to tell anyone about it. He wouldn't go to see a doctor," broadcaster and former hurdler Colin Jackson explains to the Victoria Derbyshire programme.

"But my uncle Tony - who lives in the UK and is in his 60s - sought treatment early when he developed it six years ago, and has now been given the all-clear."

Between them, Jackson and Bailey won gold medals at Olympic Games and World Championships and broke world records, but now they have a new ambition - to highlight the risk of prostate cancer, particularly among black men.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Donovan Bailey (left) won gold for Canada in the men's 100 metres at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games

For Jackson, however, the message is not getting through.

"I don't think men are aware of the statistics, the message just isn't out there," he says.

"As an athlete I was paranoid - and still am - about the slightest pimple that appeared on me and would shoot straight to the doctor.

"But I know from very good personal and anecdotal evidence that black guys simply don't want to visit the doctor, often because they would rather not know that there is anything wrong - which is just crazy.

"We need to increase the fear factor."

Prostate cancer

  • Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK. In 2011, 41,700 men were diagnosed with the disease - more than 110 a day.
  • More than a third of prostate cancer cases are diagnosed in men aged over 75 years.
  • Over 80% of men in the UK survive the disease for 10 years or more.
  • Prostate cancer is not clearly linked to any preventable risk factors.

Source: Prostate Cancer UK

Bailey, the 1996 Olympic champion in the 100 metres, believes the situation is even worse in Jamaica, where he was born, where attitudes towards homosexuality are preventing people from seeking treatment.

"In Jamaica the men are told that if a guy gives you the 'finger test' then you turn gay," he says, referencing the rectal examination doctors can use as part of the diagnosis process.

"So they would rather ignore it and die. It is as insane as that. This issue is massive, for all men, but especially for black men."

He too has lost family members to prostate cancer - a grandfather in his 80s and an uncle aged 60. Another uncle, aged 61, is currently undergoing treatment.

It is this experience of the effects of the disease that has led him to become an ambassador for the charity Jackson founded in 2013 - Go Dad Run.

Image copyright Ariane Photography Studio
Image caption Former athlete Derek Redmond (l) joined Bailey and Jackson for the Go Dad Run event in Worcester

Now in its third year, the charity encourages men and boys from around the UK to wear huge blue pants over their clothes - a form of "common silliness" - and run 5,000 metres at one of six events in the weeks and days running up to, and on, Father's Day.

Bailey - who ran with Jackson in Worcester - is hoping to take the event across the Atlantic next year so it can find a new home, and grow once more, in Canada and Jamaica.

But for Jackson, the aim will be exactly the same: "We want more footfall through doctors surgeries. These situations affect everybody, and men need to recognise that."

"We need to be vocal, so people go out there and raise awareness."

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