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Actress Marcia Cross Has a New Role: Cancer Advocate

The Desperate Housewives star is helping lead the fight against cancer in marches, through her advocacy, and with her own family.
By Lauren Paige Kennedy
WebMD the Magazine - Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Marcia Cross, the 47-year-old flame-haired actor famous for playing provocative, oh-so-perfect Bree on ABC's hit TV show Desperate Housewives, as well as unstable seductress Dr. Kimberly Shaw on the 1990s hit nighttime soap, Melrose Place, has added another role to her repertoire: health advocate. Cross is now lending her talents to Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) as a celebrity ambassador to raise public awareness and generate funds for ongoing research, with the goal of eradicating the disease forever.

Cross has long been connected to the fight. Before joining SU2C in May of this year, she was the face of Oil of Olay's "Skin Cancer Takes Friends" campaign in 2007 and 2008, which urged people -- and their closest companions -- to schedule regular skin cancer checkups. "Having had two family members stricken by melanoma, I've become very passionate about helping to educate the public about skin cancer prevention," the Emmy-nominated actress said when the campaign launched. "Thanks to early detection, both my grandfather and cousin survived the disease, but too many others aren't as fortunate. I urge everyone to protect themselves and their loved ones by scheduling a free screening together. Those few minutes could save lives."

The famous redhead is also a familiar sight at Revlon's annual Run/Walk for Women each May, a huge draw for boldfaced names and noncelebrities alike.

Marcia Cross's Personal Connection to Cancer

Cross is not merely attaching her name to the cancer cause -- however worthy it might be -- for good publicity; her motives are far more personal than that. Her husband of three years, stockbroker Tom Mahoney, 50, was diagnosed with an undisclosed cancer last fall. And her first partner, actor Richard Jordan, died in 1993 of a brain tumor after five years of their being a committed couple.

"Stand Up To Cancer is really 'Stand Up To Not Getting Cancer,'" Cross tells WebMD Magazine passionately. "Cancer is so pervasive: I've had friends and relatives with breast cancer, prostate, melanoma, you name it … and we're all in reactive mode. We should be fighting it from a healthy position, before we get that diagnosis. The chemicals we use, our household cleaners, the foods we eat, our stress levels: Our bodies were not meant to absorb this level of toxicity. We have to wake up!"

Too many people, Cross would agree, are still confronted with this disease. More than 1.4 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer this year, and an additional 11 million-plus Americans are classified as cancer survivors. As one of Hollywood's most successful television actresses, Cross has a powerful platform from which to speak -- specifically to promote cancer prevention and early detection.

"Celebrity ambassadors like Marcia are tapped for their degree of influence to extend the reach of our message," says Kathleen Lobb, founding member of SU2C, "which is to communicate to every American that they can do something to end cancer, whether it's to donate one dollar or 1 million dollars to support research, or to change personal behaviors and begin screenings for themselves and their loved ones."

And while she is open to complementary and alternative treatments, Cross says she isn't sure she "would pick one as my first line of defense." But she thinks it's essential to consider "what's available to treat the whole body … one system should complement the other."

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