The UK's former race relations chief joins Southend United's manager as part of a four-man team running to highlight black men's one-in-four risk of prostate cancer – double that of white men. We find out their personal reasons for getting involved and the taboos they hope to challenge among their peers.
The former politician and equalities tsar, Trevor Phillips, will line up alongside Southend United manager Chris Powell (pictured above) at the start of the Virgin London Marathon. They'll lead a unique team of four black men running for us to raise awareness of the increased risk of prostate cancer faced by men of their ethnicity.
In the UK, one-in-four black men will be diagnosed with the disease in their lifetime – double the one-in-eight risk faced by white men – yet only 14 per cent of black men are currently aware of their higher than average risk. The community radio DJ, DJ Disciple, and prostate cancer survivor Thomas Kagezi will complete the 'One in Four Marathon Team', representing the harsh statistics on Sunday 22 April.
"For me, this is so much more than a memorial run," says Phillps, the former chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, who lost his brother-in-law to prostate cancer. "We want to make a song and dance about this disease, because the fact is that a wider awareness of prostate cancer will save lives – many thousands of them.
"The reluctance of men to talk to their doctor about issues 'down below' has meant that fathers, brothers and sons left us before their time; and let’s face it, this reluctance seems to be a bigger issue for black men than for others."
Chris Powell, a long-time supporter of Prostate Cancer UK who can often be seen wearing our iconic Man of Men pin-badge on the touchline, also hopes the marathon team's efforts can persuade other black men to take control of their health.
"I’ve never competed in anything like this before and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous," he says. "But knowing that we’re getting the word out there will make every mile worthwhile. Together I know we can make a difference."
Thomas Kagezi is the one man on the team who has had prostate cancer, further reflecting the one-in-four statistic. He was diagnosed in 2016 and has undergone successful treatment. DJ Disciple, from Brixton, was inspired to join the team after he lost a good friend to the disease two years ago.
It's not clear why black men face a higher than average risk of prostate cancer but it is widely thought that genetics could be an underlying factor. The PSA blood test is the first step towards diagnosis, and black men are encouraged to start speaking to their GP about the test from the age of 45 – five years earlier than other men.
The money raised by the team through the marathon will go towards improving diagnosis and treatments in a bid to dramatically reduce the number of men who die from prostate cancer every year in the UK.
Donate to the 'One in Four Marathon Team' now at Chris Powell's JustGiving page.