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Baby blue for prostate cancer awareness?

October 5, 2009 – 3:18 PM

By Lauren Taylor

Pink is nice, but how about baby blue?

If the NFL wants to leverage the resources of Monday Night Football (and Sunday day and night football, too) on a public health issue — and do it in a gender-coded manner — how about a prostate cancer campaign?

Why not speckle the player’s arms, coaches hats and referees shirts with a bit of baby blue?  Prostate is the number one cancer among U.S. men (breast cancer is #2 among women – behind lung) and messaging about prostate cancer screenings could reach more than 8 million men.

Or, could the NFL draw attention to testicular cancer, known to strike young men aged 20-34? Sounds like prime viewership of NFL football to me.

Sadly, the men watching this testosterone-charged sport hear strikingly little about prostate or testicular cancer when compared with the flood of breast cancer awareness messages women receive.

Absolutely: Breast cancer awareness is an incredibly important cause, but it is already heavily lobbied by a variety of non-governmental organizations and businesses. (Last year, the National Cancer Institute spent more than $572 million on breast cancer research, nearly twice as much as on prostate cancer. Even though they have about he same number of new cases each year, the mortality rates for prostate cancer are slightly higher overall — and significantly higher among African American men, according to a 2008 American Cancer Society report — see p. 44).

Breast cancer is an almost entirely female disease, and the messaging that was most clearly delivered last night by the announcers (get mammograms!) is aimed at women over 40. One has only to consider the viewership to see that the NFL message hit a relatively small “target” audience. (The NFL audience is 66% men, with an average age of 45 — hence all the ads for beer and erectile dysfunction drugs.)

My point is not that the breast cancer campaign is worthless — or even bad. No doubt, the NFL effort contributes to breast cancer awareness and helps to keep this burdensome disease center stage.

But just think what the NFL could achieve were it more strategic with the health messaging it chooses to endorse rather than simply jumping on the breast cancer bandwagon.

Lauren Taylor is assistant lacrosse coach at Yale, former three-time college All-American, and 2009 graduate of the Yale School of Public Health who now works for the Yale Global Health Leadership Institute.

  1. 2 Responses to “Baby blue for prostate cancer awareness?”

  2. Amen! Americans seem to forget that there is a second gender–and it’s not transgender. I wonder if The View or Soaps will ever do a prostate awareness campaign? Doubtful.

    By Eric Pihl on Oct 7, 2009

  3. No one is immune from breast cancer, ask the 47 marines from Camp Lejuene NC
    Blue is good for prostate cancer, who will start the ball rolling, How about Mayor Guillani

    By al jennings on Oct 9, 2009

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