The 'Today' host wanted to encourage others to keep up with their health and be sure not to miss their checkups
When Al Roker revealed his prostate cancer diagnosis on "Today" in September, he brought America along for his treatment and recovery, which has included the removal of his prostate and numerous tests. He made his journey public not for the endless well wishes he received from fans, but because he wanted to highlight some shocking statistics about cancer treatment in the U.S.
Black men are 50% more likely to develop — and twice as likely to die from — prostate cancer.
"It's one of those things that it's a little more common than people I think realize," Roker told Dr. Oz. "I just decided that I wanted to go public with this because one in nine men are going to be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. But for African-American men, that number is one in seven, and is more deadly. If you detect it early, this is a really treatable disease, and it's why I wanted to take you along my journey, so we can all learn together how to educate and protect the men in our lives."
Dr. Oz called these "shocking" and "upsetting numbers."
Roker is advising others to keep up with their health and be sure not to miss their checkups.
"For a lot of guys, I think we tend to somewhat put our heads in the sand. … So, I thought, "Why not do this and get it out there so that maybe if one person sees it and goes, maybe I should get checked, then it was worth it," he said.
And his desire to close these gaps in health care go beyond his cancer diagnosis. In January, Roker got his COVID-19 vaccine live on TV to be that example for others of how important — and safe — it is to get vaccinated.
"Look, here you go from the Tuskegee experiments to Henrietta Lacks. There's a real implicit distrust for folks of color because of what has happened in the past. That said, I think it is important for us to show, look, this is a deadly pandemic. The risks of this vaccine, whatever they are, and I don't think there are, are far minimized by what could happen if you don't get the vaccine. ... So this is a very difficult situation. But that's why I thought, let me go on, let me do this, let me get this vaccine," he said.
For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine, head to Dr. Oz's COVID-19 Headquarters here.
And to learn more about how Dr. Oz and other doctors are working to bring more diversity to the medical field and break down implicit biases in health care, visit the More Black Doctors campaign here.