10 years ago, some Australian mates in a bar brainstormed over beers how to raise awareness for prostate cancer. They’d seen the massive campaigns for breast cancer and wanted to think of a way to elevate awareness for prostate cancer in that way.
Their solution — grow a moustache.
This month, students can participate as “mo bros” and “mo sistas” in the fundraiser and awareness event put on by The Movember Foundation, where moustaches are grown for charity. To include the half of the population that doesn’t typically grow moustaches, the foundation has introduced a second initiative called MOVE, where participants pledge to be physically active for the month of November, event coordinator Tyler Small said.
“One of the biggest parts of Movember is really the power of the moustache, and I know it sounds really cheesy when you say that, but it does create conversation,” he said.
The event caught on, and Movember is now a regular occurrence at University of Alberta, along with other men’s health fundraisers such as the University of Alberta Pharmacy Team’s Mr. Pharmacy competition.
The Movember Foundation, and its subset Movember Canada, is a global men’s health charity Since its debut in 2003, the foundation has raised $677 million for its four causes: prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and physical activity.
All money raised at the U of A goes to Movember Canada, which distributes funds raised across Canada to its specific initiatives, with 84 per cent going into research.
In the past, Movember Canada has funded U of A Associate professors John Lewis of the Department of Oncology and Roger Zemp of the department of Electrical & Computer Engineering. Lewis was funded for a project involving a blood test that would predict the spread of cancer. The ability to predict the spread of prostate cancer in an individual allows for doctors to create a more efficient treatment plan. Zemp’s research is in biomedical imaging, which functions to give clinicians information which is difficult to obtain otherwise, and his funding was given to further his work in improving prostate cancer diagnosis.
The most pressing issue in prostate cancer research is finding a test that predicts how aggressive the cancer will be in a patient’s body. Having that information would allow treatment to be much more streamlined that way. Currently, some patients have to go through treatments and subsequent side-effects they may not have had to in the first place, Small said. Treatments are hard on the body.
“(Cancer treatment is a) tough thing for guys too,” Small said. “It attacks your manhood as well because you didn’t have erectile dysfunction (before having cancer).”
In 2014, 286 registrants from the U of A raised $75,000 dollars. There is no fundraising goal this year, as The Movember Foundation’s biggest goal of the foundation is just to continue funding ground-breaking projects in men’s health, Small said.
Using the moustache to create a dialogue about prostate cancer has created an important level of awareness. Every year, The Movember Foundation receives testimonials from people who got themselves checked after hearing about prostate and testicular cancer in November, Small said.
“That’s the serious side of the moustache and the serious side of Movember,” he said.
“Moustaches do change the world, and they actually can save lives too,” Small said.
More information and registration for Moustaches in Movember and MOVE can be found here (ca.movember.com/?home)