“All those years I’ve been in diagnostic imaging, I had never heard the word BRCA before,” Knowles says.
That pushed him to look into his family history. Knowles knew that his mom and aunt had died of breast cancer, but he also learned that his great aunt died of it as well, and four of his father’s six brothers had died of prostate cancer.
Knowles “immediately” went back to his doctor for MRIs of his prostate, pancreas and liver, and goes for regular skin cancer checks. “If I had known about the BRCA gene, I would’ve had a double mastectomy,” he says.
And now, he wants everyone to find out if they have the BRCA gene so they can be proactive about their health. Knowles started working with Invitae, a genetic testing company, at the start of the year to encourage everyone to get tested — he’s gotten Beyoncé and Solange to do it too.
“If you’re ahead of the curve, then your outcome will be, most of the time, great,” he says. “I’m a living example.”
Knowles is also making a point of speaking out about male breast cancer, or as he prefers to call it, chest cancer. While men make up just a tiny portion of the breast cancer diagnoses each year, they die at a disproportionately higher rate — 19 percent higher — than women, in part because their cancer is often found later.
“A whole lot has to change in the education of men about breast cancer,” he says.
And he’s placing an added focus on helping Black men, who are diagnosed with breast cancer at a 52 percent higher rate than white men.
“I want to save lives, especially in the Black community,” Knowles says.
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