Wednesday, October 5, 2016


My absolute favorite funny-man Ben Stiller just opened up to the world writing an essay on Medium about his prostate cancer diagnosis 2 years ago.  Thank you for sharing your story Ben. I love that you wanted to talk about the PSA test that you say saved your life. #SavingLives  

But Stiller, are you still in need of life saving information?

*Update to this blogpost March, 2018, I added this clip of Stiller on the Today Show 
In this November 2016 clip below, Stiller does say there is family history of cancer on his father's side. He says, cancer, but not prostate cancer.  (Minute 1:15 - 1:30)  Stiller's father Jerry was Jewish.  

Based on the way Ben Stiller told his story, it makes me wonder if he underwent certified genetic counseling and truly understands "cancer risk" or "high risk" as his comments do not seem to reflect that he does.

 “The bottom line for me: I was lucky enough to have a doctor who gave me what they call a “baseline” PSA test when I was about 46. I have no history of prostate cancer in my family and I am not in the high-risk group, being neither — to the best of my knowledge — of African or Scandinavian ancestry. I had no symptoms."

Yet, Stiller is of Jewish ancestry and this is not noted in his essay. Does Stiller know that approximately 1 in 40 Ashkenazi Jews carries a BRCA genetic mutation that increases risk for certain cancers?

Prostate cancer being "in the family" is not the only red flag for being in a high risk group. He makes no mention of any other types of cancer in his family. So, we don't actually know if Stiller actually has any family history of any other types of cancer in his family (mother or father's side, female and/or male cancers count!). He says, "to the best of his knowledge"-- however, we don't really know what Stiller's "knowledge" is...and family medical history doesn't always scream loudly. Family medical histories can fall through the cracks if you don't know what you are looking for...or if they simply don't exist; the case for many Jewish families who lost so many members in the Holocaust. 

In addition, based on Stiller's specific comment about African or Scandinavian ancestry, is he (or are his doctors) truly educated about "high risk" or "cancer risk". Do they know that there can be a high risk component/genetic connection if other types of cancers are in the family, or with the red flags of his prostate cancer diagnosis?


-of Jewish descent 

-under 50, prostate cancer

-gleason score 7

I completely understand and get why Stiller wrote his essay.

“Taking the PSA test saved my life. Literally. That’s why I am writing this now,” Stiller said in the essay.

He wants people to know this. It's life saving information. The cancer risk education component is equally important and can also be life saving. It's a piece of the puzzle Stiller and his doctors may very well still be missing. 


(April 2016)via My Gene Counsel

"Who Should Consider Genetic Counseling and Testing for Breast and Ovarian Cancer". 


Finding out one carries a BRCA gene mutation or other gene mutation has implications on a person's health screenings and cancer risk management decisions. If Stiller has not undergone certified genetic counseling or genetic testing, he may very well be unaware of additional cancer risks he may have and lifetime health screenings he may also still need. There may be cancer risk implications for Stiller's other family members as well.

The National Society of Genetic Counselors http://nsgc.org to find a certified genetic counselor near you.

Amy Byer Shainman

Hereditary Cancer/BRCA Advocate
Executive Producer: Pink & Blue: Colors of Hereditary Cancer