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February 29, 2000

News release publication from Illinois Department of Public Health


SPRINGFIELD, IL - The Illinois Department of Public Health is sponsoring a prostate and testicular cancer awareness day on Wednesday (March 1) at the State Capitol that will feature an appearance by prostate cancer survivor Len Dawson, a former quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs.


Dawson, who was inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 1987, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in January 1992 after a regular checkup scheduled at the insistence of his wife, Linda. The cancer was detected at an early stage and his prostate was surgically removed. Since that time, Dawson's two older brothers (Ron and Gilbert) have been diagnosed with prostate cancer and died from the disease.

As part of the Department's awareness efforts, Dawson will speak at an education forum to be held in the Capitol rotunda from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. In addition, free prostate cancer screenings, including both a blood test (prostate-specific antigen or PSA) and a digital rectal examination (DRE), will be provided in Room 122B and Room 305 at the Capitol.

A reception for prostate cancer survivors and the public will be held from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the Illinois State Library atrium.

"Through public events such as this we hope to raise awareness of the importance of preventive health behavior in the early detection of health problems affecting men," said Dr. John R. Lumpkin, state public health director. "As Len Dawson can attest, something as simple as a regular doctor's visit to be screened for prostate or testicular cancer can save your life."

Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in American men and claims the lives of an estimated 37,000 men each year -- 1,800 in Illinois.

"It is recommended that men begin being tested annually for prostate cancer at age 50, age 40 if they are African American or if there is a family history of prostate cancer.

The causes of prostate cancer are not yet known. There may be a certain genetic link that causes some men to develop the disease. Having certain genes, the basic units of heredity, in a family can result in a higher risk of getting prostate cancer.

While all men are at risk for prostate cancer, the following factors can increase the chances of developing the disease:

  • Age. The chance of developing prostate cancer increases greatly after age 50. More than 80 percent of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over the age of 65.
  • Race. Prostate cancer is more common among African Americans than it is among whites. Also, African Americans are more than twice as likely to die from prostate cancer, usually because the cancer is not detected until a later stage when it is less curable.
  • Diet. Several studies suggest that men who eat a lot of fat in their diet have a greater chance of developing prostate cancer.
  • Family. Men with close family members who have had prostate cancer are at higher risk.

It is important to remember that, while these factors may increase a person's risk of developing disease, they do not cause prostate cancer. Many men with these risk factors never develop prostate cancer; others, who have this disease, have no known risk factors.

Dawson, 64, was an National Football League quarterback for 19 years, 13 with the Kansas City Chiefs. He was selected as the Most Valuable Player in Super Bowl IV (1970) when he led the Chiefs to a 23-7 upset of the Minnesota Vikings. Dawson graduated in 1957 from Purdue University where he led the Big Ten in passing and total offense for three consecutive years.

Dawson retired from professional football in 1976. He now co-hosts Inside the NFL on Home Box Office, is the sports anchor for KMBC-TV in Kansas City, Mo. and serves as the color analyst for Kansas City Chiefs football games.


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