How exactly does growing a mustache during the month of November aid male cancer research? The “Mo” in Movember is slang for mustache. November is the month for male prostate and testicular cancer awareness. That’s why and how one gets Movember.
The movement began with the legend of a couple of guys sharing some beers in Australia in 2003. The plan was simple — to bring the mustache back as a bit of joke, a kitschy sort of trend, and connect this manly act with doing something for men’s health.
“The mustache is a visible sign of male health awareness, like the pink ribbon is for breast cancer,” said Tara Chiarell of Movember, who works with the SUNY New Paltz baseball team’s fundraising efforts. “It’s the hairy ribbon that has turned our slogan into ‘Changing the Face of Men’s Health.’”
Assistant SUNY baseball coach Jesse Marsh learned about this movement last year from a friend. He said he was curious and looked it up online. He thought the cause would be a good thing in which his team could participate. “I ran it by the head coach, and he was all for it, and the guys all got on board last year and again this year,” Marsh explained.
The rules are simple: beginning November 1, men must be clean-shaven and then let their upper lip hair grow throughout the entire month. That facial fur becomes the signature for men’s health and “the means by which awareness and funds are raised for cancers that affect men,” said Chiarell. “Much like people would pledge or donate to a woman who was doing a breast cancer charity walk or run.”
“We raised a few hundred dollars last year, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but every bit helps,” Marsh said. “What is as important is that we get asked a lot of questions as to why we all have mustaches. We explain to people the cause behind it, the organization behind it, and then they spread the word.”
While the beer brainstorm in Australia did not result in funds being generated for fighting men’s cancers in 2003, the “mo bros,” inspired by what their female counterparts around them had done for breast cancer, set themselves on a course to create a global men’s health movement.
In 2004, the campaign evolved and focused on raising awareness and funds for the type of cancer most affecting men, prostate cancer. Some 432 mo bros joined the movement that year, raising $55,000 for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia — representing the single largest donation the cause had ever received.
The Movember mustache has continued to grow year after year, expanding virtually all over the world. In 2009, global participation of mo bros and mo sistas (several SUNY women athletes were among the participating New Paltz sistas this year) climbed to 255,755, with more than a million donors raising $42 million for Movember’s global beneficiary partners.
The funds raised through Movember’s U.S. campaign benefit the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) and Livestrong, the Lance Armstrong Foundation. PCF uses money raised by Movember to help fund research to accelerate the discovery of more effective treatments for prostate cancer. The ultimate goal is to find a cure.
According to their website, one program using PCF funds that has successfully made a breakthrough is the University of Michigan’s Comprehensive Cancer Center’s research, where according to http://us.movember.com 24 different types of prostate cancer have been identified. The cancers differ greatly in aggressiveness.
“This should enable scientists to soon be able to answer the agonizing question facing men with prostate cancer: does their cancer need immediate treatment, and if so what is the best treatment, or can it be left alone?” the website says.
Livestrong also uses the money raised by those mustache-sporting dudes to fund programs that support young adults and their families who are battling and surviving breast cancer.
According to Marsh, “it’s going well. My mustache is getting pretty crazy right now. We have some guys on the team that just aren’t able to grow facial hair well, so we penciled them in for the picture.” Last week he said he was undecided as to whether he would shave his mo off come the end of Movember.
To donate to Movember in a local way, the website has a link for the SUNY New Paltz baseball team. The SUNY team, which plays in SUNYAC Division 3, finished out last season with an 18-18 record.
“I believe we could be in the running for the division title this year. That’s our goal,” Marsh said. ++
For more information, head to http://us.movember.com.