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
"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
"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."
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: "Variation in Ambulatory Health
Care Visits and Visits for General Checkup by Demographic Characteristics and
Insurance Status, U.S. Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population Ages 18–64,
American Cancer Society: "What Are the Key Statistics About Prostate
National Cancer Institute: "Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results Fact
Sheet -- Prostate Cancer."
National Library of Medicine: "Lung Cancer."
Journal of the American Medical Association: "Prostate Cancer"
American Urological Association: "Prostate-Specific Antigen Best Practice
Statement: 2009 Update."