An NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center
By Maxine Nunes | November 29, 2019
Cobi Jones Thumb | City of Hope Cobi Jones
Why was soccer legend Cobi Jones — who was almost as famous for his dreadlocks as his awesome skills on the field — sporting a beard last month?
 
It was for a very important cause: heading up Team Cobi in City of Hope’s NoShaver November campaign. The purpose of this yearly event is a simple one — give up shaving for the month to provoke conversation that promotes prostate cancer awareness, encourages screening for early detection and raises funds for research.
 
We asked the Hall of Famer, now a soccer analyst for FOX Sports and Time Warner Cable Sports, how he felt about growing the beard.
 
“Fantastic,” he said. “A little itchy in the face, but it was great.”
 
Jones jumped at the opportunity to do the campaign because prostate cancer is such an important issue for men, especially in the African American community, where it is more prevalent and has a higher mortality rate than in the rest of the population. One reason for this may be a mutation of the ERF gene, which normally suppresses the disease.
 
“I was happy to get onboard because of the lack of awareness about prostate cancer,” Jones said. “So many men don’t get checked out, but it’s important to detect it early.”
 
He ran down some of the reasons men don’t go for regular screenings.
 
“Sometimes it’s old-school thinking like, ‘I’m a man, I’m tough.’ Then there’s the fallacy of youth that continues when you’re an adult: ‘I’m fine, I’m invulnerable,’” he said. “But prostate cancer can hit anybody, so you’ve got to make sure you take those first steps.”
 
Another factor is that affordable screening and followup healthcare isn’t always accessible and affordable — a problem City of Hope is working hard to solve.

Bringing Screening and Care Into Communities

Jones got involved in NoShaver November thanks to his friend Victor LaGroon, director of Strategic Partnerships & Alliances, Division of Health Equities at City of Hope, led by Rick Kittles, Ph.D.
 
LaGroon — who joined Jones’ NoShaver team and tossed aside his razor for a month — is part of City of Hope’s effort to make prostate cancer screening and care more accessible.
 
“What we do is partner with local organizations, whether it’s a church or a health center or a community center,” LaGroon said. “And when they’re having an event, we’ll go out with our team to do free screenings.”
 
Before the screenings, though, they may give a talk about prostate cancer, the importance of early detection, and exactly what the process of screening entails — because men are apprehensive.
 
“You can’t get us to the doctor for anything. Something’s got to be falling off before we get up and go for a physical,” LaGroon said, echoing Jones’s take on men and things medical. “So some of what we have to do involves changing the culture of how men have been socialized.”
 
If, after a screening, followup is needed, LaGroon is establishing safety-net partners, who can provide low-cost services for people who have no insurance or are under-insured.
 
“We really want to make sure people are connected to places in their community where they can have early and easy access to health care,” he said.
 
To learn more, here are some important facts about prostate cancer as well as specific information for African American men.

Join Team Cobi and Spread the Word

In addition to the funds Team Cobi is raising, Jones’ new beard gives him a great opening to talk about prostate cancer.
 
“When I’m walking around, people may tease me a little and say, ‘Hey, it’s not the playoffs, so why the beard?’” he said. “But it starts a conversation that brings awareness. People listen to the information and pass it on, and it has a snowball effect.”

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