Movember: Whiskers for a cause

November 15, 2019 Kelby Johnson

It’s Friday morning, and Fred awakes to the cracks of sun seeping through his shades. This is no ordinary Friday morning. This is the first day of November, and to Fred that means deciding to moustache or not to moustache.  

It’s Movember, a global movement that uses whiskers as a means of cause marketing, during which time men either carve up their facial hair to accentuate the moustache or spend three weeks squeezing enough facial hair out to participate in the “look at me, I’ve got a moustache” game to raise awareness of men’s health issues. Fred has a decision to make.

He rolls out of bed, and, as he’s done a thousand times before, he walks onto the cold tile floor in his bathroom, positioning himself in front of the mirror. Hair disheveled and eyes half open, Fred ponders the face staring back at him. He curses the increasing salt and pepper hue his facial hair has adopted, but quickly pivots his internal narrative to the fact that he’s on his way to becoming a silver fox, whatever that means.

After a three-minute internal debate, Fred decides that he can part with his rough, itchy graying beard, and transforms himself into a “Mo Bro.” This is the eloquent term the Movember Foundation has coined to describe the men who happily flaunt their moustache for men's health during the 30 days in November. 

After a three-minute internal debate, Fred decides that he can part with his rough, itchy graying beard, and transforms himself into a “Mo Bro.” This is the eloquent term the Movember Foundation has coined to describe the men who happily flaunt their moustache for 30 days in November. Fred was now playing his small part to bring men’s health issues such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health and suicide prevention to the forefront of the global consciousness.

Learn about Providence's services:

Cancer

Mental Health

Origins of Movember

This moustache annual ritual started in 1999 with a group of 80 men brainstorming at a pub in Southern Australia. Their goal was to raise awareness and money for the U.K.-based Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA ) by selling T-shirts. This low-key effort quickly became a national phenomenon.

Then, in 2003, another group of 30 men from Melbourne, Australia, independently decided to don a moustache for the month of November to reinstate it as a fashion symbol. A year later, realizing the conversational power of lip hair, the whiskered bros decided to do some fundraising for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia. In 2004, approximately 500 men raised more than $40,000. Thus, the Movember Foundation was born.

By 2018, the Movember movement claimed more than 5.5 million participants, raising north of $900 million since 2003 to fund more than 1,200 men’s health projects. 

The movement quickly transcended Australian borders and moved abroad. By the time it reached American shores in 2007, the foundation touted over 200,000 Mo Bros and Mo Sisters who had raised $27 million to fund 73 men’s health projects in Australia, New Zealand, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S.

By 2018, the Movember movement claimed more than 5.5 million participants, raising north of $900 million since 2003 to fund more than 1,200 men’s health projects. U.S. Mo Bros and Mo Sisters raised $18.4 million to support men’s health in 2018 – 73 percent of which went to men’s health projects (see the foundation’s financial transparency report here).

Today, the movement driven by the Movember Foundation boasts a robust supportive partner network that includes the likes of Amazon, NBC Sports, Mastercard, the Livestrong Foundation and the Prostate Cancer Foundation, among others.

Faces of Movember whiskers at Providence

Michael Waters
EVP Ambulatory Care Network, Providence Health International

B.J. Moore 
EVP/CIO PSJH Executive Office

Preston Simmons
SVP Chief Executive, AK Region, AK Administration

Lynn Welling
Chief Clinical Officer Swedish, Swedish Administration

Gregory Hoffman
Chief Transformation Officer, Finance Administration
 

Relevancy to men’s health

Perhaps due to the perceptions about the male gender or due to the (rightful) respect given to narratives around women’s health, men’s health matters are often sidelined. While cheeky and fun, Movember is the leading charity raising global awareness of men’s health issues.

And though the foundation supports men’s wellness in general, there are three core health issues that draw the lion’s share of attention and funding - prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health. Each of these is profiled below. Before we get into these men's health issues, here is a short video with some basic tips relating to each.  

Prostate cancer

Did you know that one in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime? 

According to the American Cancer Society, older men (the average age for diagnosis is 66) and African American men account for nearly 60 percent of prostate cancer cases. And it’s the second leading cause of cancer death only behind lung cancer. However scary that sounds, there are ways to prevent and treat prostate cancer. Symptoms men should look for include difficulty urinating, decreased stream of urine, blood in semen, pelvic area pain and erectile dysfunction.

Here are three things men can do to be aware of prostate issues:

  1. Know your risk. Three areas to explore include:
  • Genetics. Talk to your family about any history with prostate cancer. Getting smart about your family genetics is one important way to gauge your risk exposure.
  • Ethnicity. If you’re an African American male, you have a higher risk of getting prostate cancer. Most doctors recommend African American men start screening in their 40s.
  • Diet. What you feed your body also can impact your risk. Studies have demonstrated that men who eat more of a plant-based diet vs. an animal-based diet (red meat) can reduce their risk and even help stave off growth of prostate cancer. Here’s a video[JKS11]  with some quick tips on preventive measures from the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
  • Exercise. Whether you adapt a rigorous exercise routine such as CrossFit or something more relaxed like walking or yoga, exercising most days of the week can lessen your chances of getting prostate cancer.
  1. Get a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test to see if you are at risk. While imperfect, since the invention of prostate screening in 1990, death rates have fallen by more than 30 percent. Although most doctors recommend getting screened starting in your 50s, talk to your doctor about getting screened early and often, especially if cancer runs in your family. Learn more about prostate screening here, and a compilation of prostate cancer facts here.
  2. Embrace vulnerability. Recovered patient turned prostate cancer advocate Jim Bowman offers some good advice for men: “I want men to feel comfortable talking openly about prostate cancer with friends or family.” It’s OK to be vulnerable and embrace that prostate cancer doesn’t have to be a solitary journey.

Recommended information about prostate cancer:

  • The Mayo Clinic offers some additional details about prevention methods here.
  • Learn more about the Movember Foundation’s efforts to combat prostate cancer here.
  • From observation to chemotherapy, there are an array of treatments. The American Cancer Society offers a good resource for treatment types here.

Testicular cancer

Did you know testicular cancer is the most common cancer among young American men? 

Let’s start by dispelling a couple of myths about testicular cancer. You may have heard growing up that if you get hit in testicles or wear tight underwear, you could get testicular cancer. Guess what, it’s not true! However, we don’t recommend getting hit in the nether regions or wearing uncomfortable underwear.

Johns Hopkins estimates that between 8,000 to 10,000 men will develop testis cancer each year. Testicular cancer is most common among males ages 15 to 35, and unlike prostate cancer, it has a 95 percent cure rate. Also, unlike its prostate brother, testicular cancer is most common among white men and less so among minority groups. Symptoms for men to look for include lumps or enlargement, a heavy feeling in the scrotum, dull ache in the groin and a sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum.

Symptoms of testicular cancer for men to look for include lumps or enlargement, a heavy feeling in the scrotum, dull ache in the groin and a sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum.

The cause of testicular cancer, also referred to as germ cell or gonadal cancer, is largely unknown and any man can develop it. That said, studies have found that it’s generally more common in men born with undescended or partially descended testicles or if it’s in your genetic tree.

Given the rarity of this type of cancer, there aren’t a lot of preventive measures you need to take. The one recommendation our doctors suggest is performing a self-examination every month. During this monthly examination, feel around your testicles for lumps, hardness, pain or enlargement. If you experience any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. 

Recommended information about testicular cancer:

  • Learn more about the Movember Foundation’s efforts to curb testicular cancer here.
  • The American Cancer Society provides some good information about treatments for testicular cancer here.

Mental health

Did you know that six out of 10 suicides around the world are men?

Mental health is a vast and all-encompassing, indiscriminate field of conditions that impacts tens of millions of people every year. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, only about half of people with a known mental illness seek and receive treatment. When you think about the scale of the issue and the breadth of types of disorders, the thought of half of people with such disorders not getting treatment is both sobering and distressing.

Depression is one of the leading pathways to suicide. It is a debilitating issue that affects a person’s ability to work, negatively impacts their home life and inhibits their ability to build social relationships. Although the prevalence of depression is nearly double among females, American men are four times more likely to take their life due to this mental health disorder. One surprising finding from the American Psychological Association is that men 85 and older have the highest suicide rates in the U.S.

Although the prevalence of depression is nearly double among females, American men are four times more likely to take their life due to this mental health disorder. 

As a male-focused charity, the Movember Foundation looks at mental health through the lens of prevention, early intervention and promotion of healthy physical, spiritual, emotional and mental health. Their north star is a 25 percent reduction in male suicide rates by 2030 using a six-pronged strategy:

  1. Education: Promoting strong social connections to help men navigate tough times.
  2. Conversations: Helping men embrace vulnerability and extolling the virtues of open conversations.
  3. Services: Sponsoring services and programs to hone in on specific needs of men.
  4. Collaboration: Bringing bright minds together to fund and scale innovative projects that work.
  5. Community: Enabling easy access to support resources in all communities.
  6. Advocacy: Working with politicians at all levels of government to raise awareness about mental health issues facing men.

The Making Connections Initiative is a standout project funded by the foundation that is bringing males together in local communities across America to foster conversations and find ways to improve and prevent mental health disorders. This video offers a glimpse into the initiative.

Recommended information about mental health:

  • Learn more about the Movember Foundation’s mental health projects here.  
  • Learn more about depression from the American Academy of Family Physicians depression here.

In Conclusion

So now when you see people like Fred – who may or not look awesome wearing the Movember moustache – we hope you can better appreciate the deeper meaning behind their investment in whiskers for 30 days. While the global movement has raised awareness and millions of dollars to support men’s health projects, the battle to find solutions for cancer and mental illness rages on. Chris Carruthers, Principal Technical Program Manager at Providence, summed up the essence of the value of Movember:

"I use Movember to remember those close to me who have lost the battle against cancer or mental illness and be a beacon of awareness for the rest of us still fighting. After years of Movembering it feels fantastic to rally people together, get them to step out of their comfort zone, raise thousands of dollars and have a good time with it." 

If you’re keen to get involved in the movement, beyond trying to look like Magnum P.I., have a look at the Movember Foundation website under the Take Part section.

Related resources

Well Being Trust Foundation

Do you know the risk factors for prostate cancer?

Movember Foundation Investment Strategy

Parents: Make time for your kids’ mental health

Men should know signs of testicular cancer

Teen suicide: Know the warning signs

About the Author

Kelby has spent the last three-plus years leading the content strategy and editorial programming for Providence. His passion is finding the cultural insights that can be turned into relevant and helpful stories that will resonate with humans.

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