‘Don’t Be Embarrassed’

Sir Steve McQueen, Belstaff, Black screen icons and the Male Cancer Awareness Campaign collaborate to encourage men to check their prostate.

Portraits by Simon Lipman

The Male Cancer Awareness Campaign has released ‘Embarrassed’, a film directed by Oscar winner Sir Steve McQueen, to dispel myths and increase awareness around prostate cancer.

The MCAC, founded in 2004 by volunteer CEO Patrick Cox, screened the film, produced by Lammas Park, for the first time on November 25 at the Tate Britain in London.

‘Embarrassed’ has three initial goals: to raise awareness of the disease within the Black community; to get men and their families to talk about the subject more openly; and to encourage more Black men to ask their doctors for a simple prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test.

The fourth and more ambitious goal is to encourage the British government and health authorities to change current protocols to allow automatic PSA testing of the higher risk demographic of Black men aged 45 and over.


Idris Elba

The initiative has been supported by British clothing brand Belstaff, who have a long association working with men’s health and mental health charities, and the 60-second film features an award-winning line-up of male actors — Idris Elba OBE, Chiwetel Ejiofor CBE, Micheal Ward and the legendary Morgan Freeman. The casting deliberately spans generations to reach the widest possible audience as although prostate cancer is more common among men over 50, educating young men on the subject is essential.


Morgan Freeman

The facts are clear: One in four Black men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, compared with one in eight white men, and one in 14 Asian men. One in 12 Black men will die from the disease, compared to one in 24 white men, and one in 44 Asian men.

So, Black men have a 50% higher chance of losing their lives to prostate cancer than white men. And highlighting such statistics for all men raises awareness and can save lives. In comparison to other cancers, prostate cancer rates are very high in Black males, whereas testicular cancer, for example, is very rare. The risk of white men developing testicular cancer is five times greater than the risk of Black men developing the disease.

“We are asking the Black community to start the conversation about prostate cancer with family, friends, work colleagues and the wider community,” says Cox. “Black men are in the higher risk category from prostate cancer and early detection is key. We know this film has the ability to help save lives. Don’t be embarrassed.”


Chiwetel Ejiofor

The film’s mission is to encourage men to arm themselves with knowledge and overcome the stigma and embarrassment around getting tested — because early diagnosis is key to overcoming the disease.

Professor Greg Whyte OBE, a former Olympian and world-renowned sports scientist, who introduced the film at its London premiere, says, “The charity sector has suffered over the pandemic and yet they provide an essential service in optimising the health and quality of life of the population. Given the significant impact of COVID-19 on cancer care raising awareness of male cancer is absolutely crucial. ‘Embarrassed’ is a truly outstanding and important film that will undoubtedly change and save lives. I am honored to be part of such an important campaign for positive change in our society.”


Micheal Ward

Following the screening at the Tate Britain, the film has been made available to the public to post across social platforms. Then the MCAC are taking the campaign on the road to community groups and councils as part of a volunteer project in the UK and Ireland. With greater public visibility and widespread support, the charity hopes to inspire future research to help discover why Black men are disproportionally affected.

Professor Francis Chinegwundoh MBE, who has led research on this topic, says, “I became a consultant in 1996 and it was then that I began to notice a lot of Black men were being diagnosed with prostate cancer. There were no statistics on ethnicity and outpatients, so I dedicated time to research this and found that the risk of prostate cancer in Black men was three-fold. Twenty-five years later and these statistics are still not as widely known or talked about enough. Therefore, it is so important to have campaigns like ‘Embarrassed’ by MCAC, with the talent involved in the project to help propel the message and to encourage black men over 45 to ask for the PSA blood test. My message to men is to take responsibility for their health and get an annual check-up. The earlier prostate cancer is treated, the better the outcome.”

Prostate cancer is curable if caught and treated in the very early stages. The message of the campaign is simple. Embarrassment is a key issue that stops men from seeking medical advice — don’t be embarrassed.

Watch the ‘Embarrassed’ film here

For more info, visit: Embarrassed Film, Male Cancer Awareness Campaign and Belstaff. Find out more about the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer here.

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