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Barbershop Talks Cut Black Men's Prostate Cancer Risk
Date:9/6/2007

Innovative program is making a difference for this high-risk group, founder says

THURSDAY, Sept. 6 (HealthDay News) -- For thousands of black American men, getting a haircut now means cutting their risk for prostate cancer, too.

That's because a new program -- inspired by a motion picture -- has already enlisted 4,000 barbers nationwide to provide prostate cancer education and screening to minority men.

The 2004 movie Barbershop highlighted a natural neighborhood gathering place for black men. Its implications were picked up immediately by Virgil Simons, a black textile industry executive turned cancer crusader.

"Twelve years ago I was operated on for prostate cancer," Simons said. "The whole process energized me."

He founded what has become The Prostate Net, with its own Web site (www.theprostatenet.com) and toll-free telephone line (888-477-6763). According to Simons, for the past 11 years Prostate Net "has been involved in educating people about the disease and teaching them how to empower themselves."

American black males remain the target population for the effort. Studies have shown that they have a 60 percent higher risk of prostate cancer compared to whites, in large part because they often lack access to routine health care. Black Americans are almost 2.5 times more likely to die of the disease than whites, studies show.

Data on the success of The Prostate Net was to be presented this week at the Innovative Minds in Prostate Cancer Today 2007 meeting in Atlanta.

Simons said Barbershop struck a chord with him because "I knew there had to be another form of outreach, particularly for those at high risk of that disease, minority men. So I set up a program where medical centers around the country educated barbers, and they provided information on screening and free care."

The program started with 300 barbers and screening for 20,000 men. Last year
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