One of the most recognizable faces in the NFL is Bill Cowher, and for that reason, he’s using his status as former Steelers Super Bowl champion head coach to shed light on the deadly skin cancer melanoma.

Cowher has become a powerful advocate in the awareness and prevention of skin cancer, teaming up various advocacy groups. He’s also the new spokesman for Bristol-Myers Squib’s public awareness campaign “Melanoma Exposed”.

Cowher recently spoke with Men’s Fitness about the battle against the disease that people should take very seriously. Based on melanoma information, an estimated 160,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma every year. Cowher said if melanoma is caught in the early stages, it can be curable. However, once in the body, it’s deadly.

He said it’s a four-stage approach, which is to screen, protect, know and tell.  The first is to get screened for the disease. The second is to protect yourself from UV rays with the understanding that nobody is immune from it. The second is to know how deadly it is and what you to look for and the fourth is to share the information with friends to protect them.

Cowher said men are two times more likely to die from this disease than women. However, men are not as aware of this statistic. And, because of this, they’re not as likely to protect themselves. He said it’s because men don’t really realize how dangerous it is and they don’t know what to do about it. And, for that reason, they’re less likely to wear sunscreen while enjoying outdoor activities or working in the yard.

He said he’s to get NFL teams involved with the cause, not because it is cooler; but to raise awareness. After all, Cowher said, coaches are always in the sun, especially during training camps. He said Philadelpha Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson had been diagnosed with and died from melanoma. He said with the help of the NFL, the group is being proactive and raising awareness and giving them opportunities to be screened at games.

Cowher said it’s extremely difficult to convince men of the dangers. He said it usually takes some examples of men dying from it and/or seeing it with their own eyes to have it sink in. He said melanoma strikes anyone of any age of any race and nationality.

Cowher said the group is also discouraging the use of tanning beds and booths, since just like the sun, it increases one’s risk for melanoma.

Cowher said it was his wife’s death from melanoma that sparked his interest in preventing more people from suffering with the disease.

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