The humble pioneer of ecological-footprint analysis is still healthy five years after a diagnosis revealed early signs of prostate cancer.
“It’s not a news story anymore,” Vancouver ecologist and UBC professor Bill Rees told the Straight by phone. “Lots of people have prostate cancer, from, I suppose, the leader of the Opposition [Jack Layton] on down.”
Rees, from UBC’s school of community and regional planning, turns 68 this year. He claimed it was a friend’s death from a particularly aggressive form of prostate cancer—the most common form of cancer diagnosed in men—that prompted him to get a biopsy.
His second biopsy showed a low rate of the cancer, which was caught early enough to enable Rees to have his prostate removed two-and-a-half years ago. So far, Rees said, he has a clean bill of health.
“If you poke around, you’ll find lots and lots and lots of people are going through this,” Rees said, ignoring the pun. “The survival rate after five years is about 85 percent. So it’s being managed quite well.”
Rees urges every man over 40 to get “regular checks” from a doctor. And in the event there are pre-cancer cells present like those Rees developed, the professor advised that the frequency of the visits be increased.
“This is really a warning, a shot over the bow,” Rees added. “This is becoming increasingly common, we don’t know the cause, and it’s life-changing. And it’s better to catch it earlier rather than later. The early call here is the best fix.”
Rees said he credits his good health to regular cycling. Currently, Rees said he is busy looking into human psychology around consumption patterns. He is also continuing his work as a director of the One Earth Initiative, a local nonprofit advocacy group that Rees said he cofounded and personally funded during its first year of operation.