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    Volume 10 |Issue 45 | December 01, 2011 |


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Straight Talk

The Month of 'Movember'

Nadia Kabir Barb

The train was relatively empty and I sat and glanced at my fellow passengers. A couple with a young child, a lady with numerous shopping bags and a gangly group of teenagers inhabited my carriage but my eye was caught by a young man in a suit with blond hair and a moustache – a very bright pink moustache. As he stood up to leave the train he smiled at me, obviously having seen me eyeing his moustache, and I smiled back. A month ago, I would have stared at his pink moustache and wondered what in the world could have induced him to dye it pink but it was November and it all made sense.

In fact the month of November, now widely known as 'Movember' has seen a huge number of men around the world sporting moustaches of all shapes, sizes and colours to raise awareness and funds for men's health, specifically prostate cancer, other cancers that affect men and also depression. I myself was unaware of this movement until very recently when my husband came home one evening and announced that he had signed himself up for 'Movember' and had to keep a moustache for the entire month and try and raise money for the cause.

He explained that on the first of November, men register at a website called Movember.com and begin with a clean shaven face and then for the rest of the month grow, groom, trim, wax and dye a variety of moustaches to raise funds by seeking sponsorship for their moustache growing efforts. I believe the term for the registered participants is 'Mo Bros' and there are also women known as 'Mo Sistas' who luckily do not have to attempt to grow a moustache but rather assist in the fund raising aspect.

In other words, men like my husband 'effectively become walking, talking billboards for the 30 days of November and through their actions and words raise awareness by prompting private and public conversation around the often ignored issue of men's health'.

What started as a small initiative in Melbourne Australia in 2003 has over the past few years snowballed into a global movement and 'Movember' now has over one million participants with formal campaigns taking place in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, the UK, Finland, the Netherlands, Spain, South Africa and Ireland. There are also supporters of this campaign across the world in places such as Russia, Dubai, Hong Kong, Rio de Janeiro and even Mumbai. According to the Movember statistics, in 2010, over 112,000 members signed up in the UK and helped raise a staggering £11.7 million. It appears that Movember has started a moustache revolution with a common goal.

Over the last few years, awareness of breast cancer and cervical cancer has increased through global campaigns, organised events and media involvement and there is an upward trend in the number of women seeking advice and going for regular checkups and screening although it is still an ongoing effort. However, it seems to be the case that men are far less likely to want to discuss any health issues they might be suffering from, especially if they feel it is of a personal nature. They are reluctant to seek medical help and may find it an embarrassing topic but it is essential to build awareness in men as to the necessity of regular checkups and the need to be body aware.

Prostate Cancer is more likely to develop in men over the age of fifty and is said to be one of the most prevalent types of cancer in men. Although two thirds of cases are slow growing where there may never be any problems or symptoms, the other third is far more aggressive and fast developing and accounts for more cancer related deaths in men except that of lung cancer. Therefore, regular screening can result in early detection and treatment to avoid the cancer spreading outside the prostate gland. On the other hand, although relatively uncommon overall, testicular cancer is the most common type of cancer to affect young men especially between the ages of 18 to 44 years.

You may wonder how a moustache can have an impact on anything as serious as men's health issues but funnily it has and is making an impact. In the UK, numerous companies, banks and small organisations have decided to get involved and it is now common to see employees sporting a moustache of some sort during Movember. Although, generally in the office environment, moustaches are usually frowned upon and clean shaven faces are the norm (although recently beards have become more acceptable). For some reason you just do not see very many people with moustaches in the work environment so when there is a sudden surge in the number of people going around with unshaven upper lips, it invariably arouses curiosity and interest.

Ever since my husband decided to sign up, my children, our friends, his work colleagues and even acquaintances have raised an eyebrow and wondered at his sudden desire to sprout a moustache. This has in turn generated a discourse about men's health and also prompted many of them to sponsor his cause. Even on his journey to and from work, people give him a thumbs up or wish him well for Movember. The whole concept is a very effective word of mouth campaign.

Other than Movember, there are also other campaigns and charities such as 'Everyman' and 'Prostate Cancer Awareness Month', the Prostate Cancer Charity etc. trying to generate awareness and money for men's cancer research. Moustache November may be light hearted in nature, using a bit of fun and good humour to get people to take notice but the underlying message it is trying to convey is far more serious. What they are trying to advocate is the necessity to change established habits and attitudes men have about their health, to educate men about the health risks they face and getting them to act on that knowledge thereby increasing the chances of early detection, diagnosis and effective treatment.



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