Shane Nolan, singer and Action Cancer ambassador, urges men to get a health MOT

Ahead of his charity gig in Belfast, Shane Nolan tells Gail Bell why it was important for him to take the MOT check for Action Cancer and why men need to be more proactive in looking after their health

Taking preventative action – Shane Nolan takes Action Cancer's men's health check
Taking preventative action – Shane Nolan takes Action Cancer's men's health check Taking preventative action – Shane Nolan takes Action Cancer's men's health check

EVERY year, more than 4,500 men in Northern Ireland are diagnosed with cancer – that's 12 men every day, according to Action Cancer which is currently promoting its men's health check, this time with the help of new ambassador Shane Nolan.

The singer – and son of high profile couple, Shane Ritchie and Coleen Nolan – has recently joined forces with the Northern Ireland charity to help raise awareness of the importance of a male 'MOT' which includes some basic health tests for blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood glucose and body composition analysis.

Although men are 14 per cent more likely than women to develop cancer, Caroline Hughes, health improvement manager with the charity, says they are more reluctant to go to the doctor at a time when the disease could be detected at an early, more treatable stage.

Nolan, whose three aunts – the famous Nolan sisters, Bernie, Anne and Linda – have all been struck by the disease (Bernie passed away in 2013 at the age of 52), admits that, up until now, he has been one of those men who looked the other way when it came to getting himself 'checked out'.

"I've always been terrible about going to the doctor and my mates are all the same," he says. "No-one really wants to know bad news, but the sooner something like cancer is found, the best chance there is of getting it sorted.

"I am delighted to be supporting Action Cancer as their men's health ambassador because men definitely need to be more open about talking about their health and they need to be encouraged to visit their GP if they have any cause for concern."

And, to prove he wasn't all talk, the 30 year-old, Manchester-based performer – who is back in Northern Ireland with band, My Eyes Adored You, next month – took the health check during a recent visit to the Action Cancer clinic in Belfast.

"I'm pleased to say I got a clean bill of health and a worry I didn't even know I had, has been lifted from my shoulders," he says. "I went the other week and I was really nervous, actually but it's not invasive at all – just regular checks of your weight, BMI (Body mass index), blood levels, blood pressure, that kind of thing.

"The tests don't diagnose cancer but they do give an indication as to your current state of health and if there is a need for further investigation. I thought it would be harsher but the men's health check really is that easy."

Nolan's motivation to accept the new ambassador role with the charity was a no-brainer, he says, and he had extra impetus, having witnessed his family's suffering at the hands of the disease.

"I lost my Auntie Bernie some years ago and my Auntie Anne and my Auntie Linda have both been diagnosed with breast cancer," he says. They're fine at the moment and were both in great tune at Auntie Linda's 60th birthday at the weekend. It's still hard, though, losing Auntie Bernie, but everyone in the family has coped so well.

"It's amazing how many people get in touch with me because they see how my family has been affected by cancer but I would still have wanted to take on this ambassadorial role to encourage people – especially men – to get checked out and forget about any embarrassment."

The eldest son of Shane Ritchie and Coleen Nolan – his younger brother, Jake Roche, is a singer with that band Rixton – Nolan is a regular visitor to Northern Ireland and says he has enjoyed "some of the best nights" of his life in Belfast.

"I love coming to Northern Ireland, although I have more of a connection to southern Ireland, family-wise," says the singer and father to three-year-old, Amelia Rose. "We have a lot of family members in Athlone but Belfast is something else for a night out – I love it.

"With this new show, it is a little taster tour, showcasing the songs of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, but we hope to do a bigger one next year. I just love the music and first fell in love with the songs when my dad took me to see Jersey Boys on Broadway when I was a teenager.

"It immediately struck a chord with me and I've since seen it in London, Vegas and Manchester. I've been in a couple of musicals myself but this would be my dream role – although, perhaps not the Frankie Valli part; I'm not sure I have the voice for the high-pitched stuff."

Fronting the four-piece, My Eyes Adored You – a celebration of Frankie Valli hits, popularised in Jersey Boys the musical – is Brit award winner, winner of the Voice UK and star of Liberty X, Kevin Simm (as Frankie Valli).

It's going to be "a great laugh with lots of great songs" and, to borrow an old Nolans hit, if you're 'In the Mood for Dancing', then the floor is yours.

:: My Eyes Adored You will be performing at the Stormont Hotel, Belfast, on April 27, with proceeds going to Action Cancer.