The “Billions” actor is encouraging men, particularly Black men, to visit their doctor, as the best defense against prostate cancer is early detection.
In 2019, Harry Lennix became the face of the Prostate Cancer Foundation’s “Know the Numbers” campaign. He has since acted as an advocate for the PCF, encouraging men to understand the risks of prostate cancer and the steps they can take to take control of their health. “As we learn more about the disease itself, I think that men need to be encouraged to go [to the doctor], no matter how off-putting or how delicate it might seem,” Lennix says.
Lennix, best known for his television roles in “The Blacklist” and “Billions,” first got involved with prostate health when he lost a close friend, Gilbert Pesto. “He’s a great guy and so vital, so full of life,” Lennix says. “To see him die before his time was deeply affective, so this was something I could do to honor him and to help other people who were still here.”
Simply getting men to go to the doctor is one of the biggest barriers to decreasing the cases of prostate cancer, Lennix says. “All kinds of things are tied into this: ego, self-esteem, masculinity. It’s not always easy for men. Men seem hesitant to ask for the help that they need because they don’t want to be even more of a burden than they might otherwise be.” Lennix has noticed this particularly in men of his generation.
There is even more resistance for men taking charge of their own prostate health in the Black community. “We have to address the elephant in the room,” Lennix says, “which is that there has been good cause for some Black men, and Black people in general, to be skeptical of the medical community. There’s evidence that even when treated by Black doctors, there’s an under-servicing that happens to Black people.”
Lennix agreed to work with PCF to speak directly to Black men about their prostate health. “Particularly as a Black man, I think that kind of message goes a long way,” he says. “There may be some skepticism that is deeply rooted, but our concern is saving lives. We particularly want to address what was once a disparity and actually correct that record.”
The importance of early detection
Another message Lennix hopes to share is that early detection and treatment can lessen the disparity in cases for Black men. “If you catch it early enough, the outcomes for Black men are as good as for other men,” Lennix says. “I think that the best thing, in the face of fear, is facts to confront the fear. I think that does go a long way.”
There are things that you can change about your diet and lifestyle to help prevent your risk of prostate cancer. “There is evidence to show that, for example, staying away from charred meats and smoked meats, particularly, that does a good deal,” Lennix says. It is also suggested that decreasing your intake of smoke, alcohol, and processed foods can help reduce the risk of certain cancers. “If you go to pcf.org, you can find out there’s a pretty detailed list of dietary suggestions,” Lennix says.
The greatest defense against prostate cancer, however, is early detection, which is why advocates like Lennix encourage men to get tested early and regularly. “One of the great tools that we have is to let people know how treatable prostate cancer and prostate deficiencies are if caught early,” Lennix says. “Prostate cancer is extremely treatable and has a high success rate in terms of getting past it and living a rich, full life.”