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‘Bill Turnbull effect’ helps break men’s taboo over prostate cancer

Bill Turnbull's openness in speaking about his prostate cancer is thought to be a major contributor to more men getting checked for the illness. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Bill Turnbull's openness in speaking about his prostate cancer is thought to be a major contributor to more men getting checked for the illness. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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The “Bill Turnbull effect” is helping to steadily break the taboo of men talking openly about prostate cancer, campaigners have said.

Broadcaster Bill Turnbull has spoken honestly about having prostate cancer. Picture: RACHEL EDGEBroadcaster Bill Turnbull has spoken honestly about having prostate cancer. Picture: RACHEL EDGE

Support groups in Suffolk have praised the television presenter, who has a home in Suffolk, for being "brave" as he "braves his soul" in talking about his condition, with the illness now overtaking breast cancer as the most commonly diagnosed cancer in England.

The were 7,828 more diagnoses of prostate cancer in 2018 than the previous year, provisional Public Health England (PHE) data showed.

One of the reasons, as NHS clinical director for cancer Professor Peter Johnson said, is because "well-known figures like Rod Stewart, Stephen Fry and Bill Turnbull all talking openly about their diagnosis".

Jeff Willmot, vice-chairman of East Suffolk Prostate Cancer Support Group, said the numbers of men attending free screening tests run by the group had more than quadrupled in recent years - from around 100-140 in 2017, to 550 last year.

Bill Turnbull has a home in Suffolk and presents a show on Classic FM.  Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTHBill Turnbull has a home in Suffolk and presents a show on Classic FM. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTH

He says that is largely down to celebrities such as the former BBC Breakfast presenter, who publicly revealed his illness in 2018 and had 10 rounds of chemotherapy, talking in public about the issue.

Mr Willmot, who himself tours the county giving awareness-raising talks about prostate cancer, said: "Bill has been very good in putting forward his case that men really ought to start thinking about their health.

"He's been quite brave. He's been honest and upfront in talking about it - he really bears his soul, and that's very instrumental in getting more men to get checked out for this.

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"He's lucky he's got a public platform but when interviewed, he speaks in a totally frank and open way about what's happening to him.

"Unfortunately, prostate cancer is not like breast cancer because there's not a lot of publicity about it. However, it's getting more and more publicity."

The PHE data shows there were 49,029 diagnoses of prostate cancer in 2018.

The figures also show there were more cancers diagnosed in 2018 in males than females - 165,228 versus 151,452.

This means an average of 868 invasive cancers were diagnosed each day.

In Mr Turnbull's case, the cancer spread across his pelvis, hips, legs and spine.

Heather Blake, director of support and influencing at Prostate Cancer UK, said: "The dramatic increase in diagnoses between 2017 and 2018 is likely a reflection of the surge in referrals sparked by the announcement that prostate cancer had become the third biggest cancer killer and high-profile individuals such as Stephen Fry and Bill Turnbull sharing their experience of the disease.

"It is a good thing that awareness of this killer disease is increasing, and more men are taking control by discussing it with their GP."

Prof Johnson said: "As people live longer, we're likely to see prostate cancer diagnosed more often, and with well-known figures like Rod Stewart, Stephen Fry and Bill Turnbull all talking openly about their diagnosis, more people will be aware of the risk."

The full data will be released in spring.


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