Alberto Costa, Chief Executive of the European School of Oncology, was one of the founders of Europa Uomo, 20 years ago this year. Here he recalls the days of the organisation’s establishment

The idea of establishing Europa Uomo came to our mind at the European School of Oncology as a consequence of the incredible success of Europa Donna, the European breast cancer coalition. The idea became a recurrent topic of conversation and brainstorming with my dear friend Louis Denis, who taught urology on our courses and who was so enthusiastic about early detection and screening programmes for prostate cancer.

The main obstacle to the new organisation was the lack of a clear message. For breast cancer it was easy – the main object was to promote mammography. But what would our campaign be for prostate cancer? At the time, PSA was still not very reliable – and more importantly, the resulting biopsy procedures were painful and complicated. However, we decided to go forward and start the organisation anyway – particularly as it became clear that new treatment options, other than prostatectomy (with its side-effects), were becoming available.

It was a time when nobody seemed to care about prostate cancer, but Louis Denis thought we should be brave and go ahead and found Europa Uomo.

We inserted into the ESO programme a conference on active surveillance along with seminars on radiotherapy for prostate cancer. We wanted to achieve more public awareness, and we invited personalities and celebrities to support us and provide testimonials. Our first meeting was in Rome, in 2002, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – at a time when the Prime Minister of Italy announced on TV that he had prostate cancer! Europa Uomo was legally established two years later at a meeting in Milan.

Pictured: Alberto Costa (centre) with Louis Denis (left) and Tom Hudson at a Europa Uomo meeting in Milan in 2008, four years after its legal formation