His father's prostate cancer changed tennis legend John McEnroe, who turned 50 in February. McEnroe used to have at least one thing in common with ordinary guys: He rarely saw a doctor or gave his own health a lot of thought. That all changed five years ago, when his dad, now 74, was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
"It really raised my awareness level," says the four-time U.S. Open champ. He scheduled his first prostate-specific antigen test -- a screening test for prostate cancer that's also called a PSA -- not long after his father's diagnosis. He got a clean bill of health.
McEnroe, who will announce the U.S. Open this month, wants to raise others' awareness of the disease. Prostate cancer afflicts an estimated one in six men, most older than age 65; nearly 200,000 new diagnoses will be made this year. In men, only lung cancer is deadlier.
To do that, he has partnered with Stand Up to Cancer, an Entertainment Industry Foundation initiative for Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, in September.
"It makes me feel I'm doing something important at this time of my life," he says. "And that's made me feel better about turning 50."
McEnroe has learned to take his own health more seriously. He works out almost daily on the tennis court or at the gym, and he sees his physician regularly. He also keeps up with news on the prostate front and encourages men to talk to their doctors about when it's time to get a PSA screening.
"I see myself as an ambassador," he says of his involvement with the awareness campaigns. McEnroe also works with GlaxoSmithKline's 50 Over 50 Prostate Health Challenge. "I want other men to see me active and proactive about my health and maybe say, 'Hey, I can be like that.'"
Happily, McEnroe's father is doing well these days, but it is still hard to get him to talk about his health. "When we talk, I make sure he is doing better, doing the things he needs to do," says McEnroe, laughing, "but he just wants to talk about a tennis comeback for me."
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