In November 2020, longtime TODAY weatherman and co-host Al Roker announced his prostate cancer diagnosis. “It’s a good news-bad news kind of thing,” stated Roker. “Good news is we caught it early. Not great news is that it’s a little aggressive, so I’m going to be taking some time off to take care of this.” He revealed that he will be undergoing surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City next week to remove his prostate and may be back to work in as quickly as two weeks.
Roker chose to publicly announce his cancer diagnosis for one very important reason: to spread awareness of the disease among African American males, encouraging them to receive checkups to detect a cancer that can be very treatable in the early stages. The first detection of Roker’s prostate cancer occurred during a routine physical, which led to an MRI, biopsy and later, a diagnosis. Without proper checkups, the cancer could have gone undetected for some time, which is why it is one of the leading causes of cancer death in the country. “…There are no symptoms with early prostate cancer. So screening saves lives, and African American men need to get screened and should get screened usually starting at age 40.” Dr. Carol Brown, cancer surgeon at Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center, reiterated.
The shocking truth is that many African Americans will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetimes. In fact, an average of 1 in 7 African American men will be diagnosed with the disease. African American men are 79% more likely to develop prostate cancer and more than twice as likely to die from it. However, there is also a high chance of curing prostate cancer if it is caught early. These statistics are why philanthropists like Robert F. Smith have made it their mission to help combat prostate cancer and support initiatives that allow for early detection. Smith is an avid supporter of the Prostate Cancer Foundation. In 2018, Smith gifted $2.5 million to the foundation, the largest donation ever in support of prostate cancer research, which led to the creation of the Robert Frederick Smith Precision Oncology Center of Excellence at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago. In July 2020, he announced a collaboration with the Prostate Cancer Foundation to help develop a genetics-based test for early detection of prostate cancer.
Learn more about how you can help fight prostate cancer and encourage awareness among African Americans on the Prostate Cancer Foundation website.