Basketball coaches at many colleges across the country and at high schools in Iowa will be swapping their loafers for sneakers this weekend. “Coaches versus Cancer” is an effort that puts cancer awareness at center court.

 Chuck Reed, spokesman for the American Cancer Society in Iowa, says the coaches are celebrities in the state and they do a great job of getting out the word and helping raise money.

Coaches at Iowa, Iowa State, U.N.I., and Drake will be among nearly 4,000 across the country wearing sneakers with their suits during games on Saturday and Sunday. Reed says the fashion statement spotlights the fact that cancer remains a major health concern and awareness is the key to prevention.

“You control roughly about two-thirds of your chances of getting cancer,” Reed says. He says you can’t control genetics, but you can control things like smoking, proper diet and a healthy body weight.

Statistics show there were more than 328,000 preventable cancer deaths nationwide in 2011, caused by tobacco use and other lifestyle choices. Reed says, today, more than 11 million Americans are living with some form of cancer. The five-year survival rate for all cancers right now is about 68%.

Coaches versus Cancer” moved to the high schools in Iowa about six years ago when four or five teams designated a game to promote cancer awareness. Reed says the effort has grown tremendously across the state since then, as nearly 200 events are being held at high schools in Iowa this weekend, many of which are fund-raisers for the American Cancer Society.

“Coaches versus Cancer” events have raised nearly two million dollars in Iowa since 2007, while the initiative has raised more than 75 million dollars nationwide since 1993.

By Elwin Huffman, KOEL, Oelwein