Page last updated at 14:24 GMT, Saturday, 26 September 2009 15:24 UK

Cancer pilot targets soccer fans

Portsmouth fans
The scheme targets male fans at clubs including Portsmouth

Football clubs are taking part in a scheme, part-funded by the government, to educate older men about cancer.

Each year, 60,000 men are diagnosed with lung, bowel or prostate cancer. Those aged over 55 are most at risk.

Grassroots charity the Football Foundation is running the year-long pilot, involving nurses offering free health checks and advice at matches.

Portsmouth, Brighton & Hove Albion, Blackburn Rovers, Scunthorpe United and Norwich City are the clubs taking part.

Health Secretary Andy Burnham launched the scheme, entitled Ahead of the Game - Organise Your Defence, at Portsmouth's Fratton Park ahead of the Premier League fixture against Everton.

He said: "We know that men over the age of 55 are particularly at risk from some of the big killers - bowel cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer.

Cancer can be a daunting thing to think about - some men shy away from talking about it but I hope that through football we can break through these barriers
Stephanie Moore, widow of Bobby Moore

"By bringing this information in on a match day, we can really help build their awareness and get them to the GP perhaps earlier than they would otherwise have gone."

The trial will also involve informative events like community roadshows.

The foundation's chief executive, Paul Thorogood, said football had proven to be an effective vehicle to reach large audiences.

And Prof Mike Richards, the Department of Health's national cancer director, said using the sport's appeal to get the message across was no gimmick.

"If you're diagnosed early, your life can be saved," he insisted.

"We need to use all the avenues we can to get both to men and to women and this one sounds like a very effective way of getting to men of certain age."

Bobby Moore's widow Stephanie, who set up a fund for bowel cancer research in memory of England's World Cup-winning captain, who died of the disease aged 51, said she hoped the campaign would save thousands of lives.

"Cancer can be a daunting thing to think about and I understand that some men shy away from talking about it but I hope that through football we can break through these barriers," she said.

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