For a long time, John McEnroe was just like most guys: He hardly went to the doctor. That changed when his father was diagnosed with prostate cancer three years ago, McEnroe TVGuide.com. Since then, the seven-time Grand Slam champ has become a Stand Up to Cancer ambassador and has partnered with an array of organizations, including the American Urological Association, Men's Health Network, Prostate Cancer Foundation and the Prostate Conditions Education Council, to raise awareness about the importance of pro-activity in prostate cancer. This year, more than 192,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and more than 27,000 men will die from the disease, according to Prostate Cancer Foundation figures.
We caught up with McEnroe, 50, to learn more about his work for our new Celebrity Charities feature, which highlights stars' favorite causes.
TVGuide.com: You dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006. How's he doing now?
John McEnroe: My dad is doing well now. My dad had it three years ago and he was diagnosed at an early enough stage that it was caught and detected and didn't become a bigger problem, but it was big enough that he had to have radiation.
TVGuide.com: How much did you know about it before your dad's diagnosis?
McEnroe: I knew ... very little. It was a huge wake-up call. When my dad had it, I went around talking about it so I knew a little bit then through hearing about it. I know more about it now than I did a year ago and knew virtually nothing a year ago, so it's an issue I've become a lot more familiar with. Basically, just playing and being active and trying to be healthy has got me involved me as well.
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TVGuide.com: You're a Stand Up to Cancer ambassador now, too.
McEnroe: Yes, it's great. It makes me feel like I'm doing something important. They saw what I've done and thought that I would be a good ambassador for them. I turned 50 earlier this year and got tested and everything was clean. Since then the American Urological Association has come out and said you should be tested at 40.
TVGuide.com: What's the first thing guys should do?
McEnroe: It's like getting a checkup. When you see your doctor, assess what your options are. Talk about a plan for you. You can get a PSA [prostate-specific antigen] test done. It's a simple blood test, but that's a good guide early on. You can go to Prostate Cancer Watch to learn more.
TVGuide.com: Some men aren't comfortable talking so openly about their prostate or prostate tests. Are you hoping that by talking about it, you will make it less uneasy?
McEnroe: I'm just hoping my involvement will help more guys manage their risk. But you know, guys have a tendency to sit around and assume everything's OK. They don't see a doctor. I was the same way. But you have to get off your butt and do it. It's like when you're lost in a car and don't ask for directions. You just drive around for hours. This is sort of like that. If you ask someone for directions, you'll get there faster. If you get tested early and detect something early, the curability rate is going to be so much higher.
TVGuide.com: What's the most important fact men should know?
McEnroe: That one out of six guys end up getting it. That, right there, I think is pretty much a no-brainer to be proactive about it.
McEnroe: That's sort of alarming, isn't it? So I think the good news is that this is something you could do something about. This should be part of your routine checkup. I think that's the biggest message. What I like in general is that it's [promoting] a healthier lifestyle. It seems like more and more people are getting out of shape, are getting less and less active, so it all goes hand in hand.TVGuide.com: What else will you be doing to get the word out?
McEnroe: Lots of stuff, hopefully. I've been doing stuff the whole year. Originally, it was more of a guideline for 50-year-olds and since then [the testing age changed] to 40, so that [campaign] changed a little. I'll do whatever I can to encourage people to be proactive.