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Mr. 80 Percent

Stephen Fry: A man willing to talk about prostate cancer

With an announcement on YouTube, the British actor and author made headline news, and spurred many men to get checked.

British actor and author Stephen Fry helped inspire discussion about prostate cancer by releasing a YouTube video in 2018.Alastair Grant/AP

Stephen Fry is a household name in England, highly regarded for his work as an actor, comedian, writer, and public intellectual. So, in 2018, when Fry posted a 13-minute video on YouTube announcing he’d been treated for prostate cancer, it was headline news.

More than that, though, it was unusual. Rarely had a high-profile man — a celebrity — spoken so publicly about his experience with prostate cancer. In the video, which quickly went viral, Fry spoke candidly about his cancerous prostate — he called it an “aggressive little bugger” — and encouraged men of a certain age to have their PSA checked.


“One in eight men will get prostate cancer at some time in their life, and one in four if you’re of African descent,” Fry says in the video. “So there’s a strong possibility if you’re a man that you’ll get it. So it’s worth checking your PSA and going from there.”

The effect was dramatic. Virtually overnight, according to Britain’s National Health Service, there was a spike in the number of men in the UK getting their PSA checked. That led, predictably, to a significant increase in diagnoses of the disease in England.

Fry, who’s 64, has continued to raise awareness about prostate cancer, collaborating with his surgeon on a lengthy piece about his ordeal, beginning with his doctor’s initial concerns through diagnosis and surgery to follow-up. Fry has also recorded public service announcements for the nonprofit group Prostate Cancer UK, which he’s shared with his more than 12 million Twitter followers.

Mark Shanahan can be reached at Follow him @MarkAShanahan.