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Sexy diseases - what does it take to attract a celebrity to your cause?

Tuesday 9 August, 2011 by Melissa

Here's an odd question for you - one that I never thought I'd ask in my years working in the media here in Melbourne: is there such a thing as a "sexy disease?"

I'm sure if you ask the many people battling cancer in Australia, the answer would be a resounding "No."

I ask, because working in the world of bowel cancer, and trying to raise awareness of the disease that is essentially about bums and pooh (and the screening of) we are yet to attract a fabulous, famous person to be an ambassador for the cause.

Let's face it - anything that deals with faecal matter is always going to struggle in the media/celebrity stakes - but here in Australia bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer of men and women.

Each week it tragically takes the lives of 73 people, and even more tragically, 90 per cent of bowel cancers are curable if detected early.

It goes without saying that raising awareness of the disease is essential to save lives and a celebrity would be a powerful way to do this.

So why can't our Get Behind Bowel Screening campaign attract a well-known and well-loved Australian to talk about the disease?

Someone who would encourage everyone 50 and older to take a cheap and simple at-home bowel cancer screening test called a Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT).

(The test detects blood in a bowel motion, which can be a symptom of bowel cancer.)

Celebrities in Australia have given their support to worthwhile causes like ovarian cancer, which through the White Shirt Day campaign attracted the entire cast of celebrities including models, TV personalities and comedian Tim ‘Rosso' Ross.

Then there's breast cancer - think Olivia Newton-John and Kylie Minogue who bravely spoke about their experiences.

What about prostate cancer - many celebrities from iron man Guy Leech to famed Aussie singers Normie Rowe and Angry Anderson (and a gaggle of current and ex-footballers here in Victoria) have all supported the cause.

So thusly my questions:

What is so attractive about these cancers to celebrities?

And why are they reluctant to put their names and brands to a disease that deals with the back passage and the contents therein? (I may have just answered my own question).

With the exception of the sometimes controversial, but never boring, Sharon Osbourne (for those uninitiated in the heavy metal music scene she is the wife of Ozzy Osbourne and star of a reality show/talk show) I don't think I can name another famous person who has spoken about their battle with bowel or colorectal cancer.

Given that there are literally thousands of cases of bowel cancer diagnosed each year in Australia, the likelihood that someone famous has had the disease is extraordinarily high.

Having said this, we do have a number of fabulous, not-so-famous people who have put themselves forward to speak about bowel cancer - from those who have had the disease and survived to those who have lost their family members.

Many have chosen to share their experience publicly in the hope that others will learn or take comfort from them - you can check out their stories here.

If you are 50 and older we urge you to take an FOBT - bowel cancer can be there without symptoms and this test could save your life.

And if you are a celebrity and would like to get behind our cause and speak out about bowel cancer - please call the Cancer Council - we'd love to hear from you.


I'm not sure about the over 50 crowd, but given that colorectal cancer rates rose 64% in people under 40 in the last 10 years surely you should be looking for an ambassador to reach this important, and often forgotten, group? I have colorectal cancer at 29, and have since met a stack of other 20- and 30-somethings with the disease. We're all young and good looking - does your ambassador need to be famous? (Joke)

From: Ben, 15/04/2013

In answer to your question, yes absolutely! I have stage IV lung cancer and I can tell you first hand that there are definately more 'fashionable' cancer's and I often find myself dreaming of being on the other side of the fence... Well if we keep working on it maybe one day we can join the cool kids on the cancer block!

From: Karen, 15/04/2013

Thanks for your great comment Karen, I agree, hopefully we can become the cool kids on the cancer block!

From: Melissa - Cut Your Cancer Risk team, 15/04/2013

Hi Ben, thanks for your post. Our latest figures show that bowel cancer incidence in those aged 0-49 accounts for about 7 per cent of total diagnoses. That's why our focus at CCV is those aged 50 and older. That's not to say we don't value young people with colorectal cancers (like your good looking self/mates) getting out there and spreading the message about bowel cancer screening - we recommend anyone with symptoms or a family history of the disease talk to their doctor about it whatever their age.

From: Melissa - Cut Your Cancer Risk, 15/04/2013

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