Hip hop hitmakers rap about colon cancer screenings in latest Stand Up To Cancer music video campaign

Stand Up To Cancer's latest campaign to urge colon cancer screening stars well-known rappers and new original rhymes. (Stand Up To Cancer/Hip Hop Public Health)

In the 1980s, rapper Chuck D and Public Enemy urged people to “Fight the Power.” Now he and hip-hop artist Pete Colon are urging people in the Black and Latino communities to "check your behind" and get screened for colon cancer.

Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) teamed with health equity organization Hip Hop Public Health to produce two animated music videos—one in English, the other in Spanish—that tackle the low rate of colorectal cancer screening among those two groups, SU2C CEO Sung Poblete said in an email interview.

The Chuck D public service announcement, released in 30-second and 60-second versions, features an original rap song that emphasizes early detection and promotes cutting back on risk factors like smoking, alcohol and unhealthy food.

“Get tested, pay attention to the signs. Talk to your doctor and check your behind,” Chuck D raps in the video. Colon delivers the same musical message in the Spanish-language version.

The ad appears on both groups’ websites and will air on broadcast TV and radio in multiple markets for the next 12 months, Poblete said. Hip Hop Public Health is encouraging people to share the videos on social media using the hashtag #CheckYourBehind.

Related story: Stand Up To Cancer's annual star-studded fundraiser telecast nods to pharma partner efforts  

Black people are almost 20% more likely to get colorectal cancer and about 40% more likely to die from it than most other groups. Meanwhile, Latino adults are more likely than white adults to be diagnosed at a later stage, according to SU2C. Disparities in screening rates are partly to blame, Poblete said.

“Colorectal cancer is often preventable with regular screening and is treatable in 90% of cases when detected early, so getting screened is critical,” she said.

Poblete said SU2C teamed with Hip Hop Public Health because of its mission to use music, art and science to break down important health equity topics.

Olajide Williams, M.D., a Columbia University neurology professor who founded Hip Hop Public Health, said one goal of the campaign was to make people aware that home tests are available as an alternative to colonoscopies—and also that it’s OK for patients to ask questions about colon cancer. 

“That’s the power of a message in music—these songs actually address questions in a direct, relevant way that takes some of the trepidation out of it,” Williams said in an email interview. 

The rap encourages people to talk about colon cancer with their family and “inner circle” and reassures them “screening is protective and it won’t hurt you.” It urges people 45 and over to take a home test or talk to their doctor.

Related story: Exact Sciences, Stand Up to Cancer, Foxx team up to drive colorectal screenings

“Hip-hop has a powerful voice and we’re using it to help make the community better, to try to get people to pay attention, to stay healthy and to catch things early instead of reading about it when it’s too late,” Chuck D, who's also a Hip Hop Public Health advisory board member, said in a news release.

The colon cancer ad is one of two new campaigns SU2C debuted last week. A separate PSA, “Count Me In,” features "Orange is the New Black" and "In Treatment" actress Uzo Aduba, who lost her mother to pancreatic cancer.

In a video, Aduba urges all cancer patients to share their data and personal stories with researchers to accelerate cancer research. The PSA also includes three cancer survivors—Maeve, Brigette and Joel—who talk about why they shared their own information and experiences.