Mo Brothers and Mo Sisters take note: although things are getting hairy once again this November, there’s another way to raise awareness in support of the campaign to end prostate cancer! This year, women are included in the campaign by committing to a 30-day fitness regime, putting the ‘move’ in Movember while thousands of men grow their moustaches and beards all in a good cause.
The 11th month of the year has been rebranded Movember, an amalgamation of moustache and November, to raise awareness of prostate cancer. It works like this: At the start of Movember, men take action by signing up with a clean-shaven face and for the 30 days of November commit to growing a moustache or beard. Participants are known as “Mo Bros” and groom, trim and wax their facial furniture in the name of charity. Others can sponsor them for their efforts with funds heading back to the Movember Foundation. Sadly, about one in seven men will get prostate cancer during their lifetime, while the disease is the second leading cause of cancer death in men, behind only lung cancer.
The campaign is not just exclusive to men, as women are also encouraged to raise money and awareness to help change the face of men’s health. Since 2004, more than US$650m has been raised across 21 countries. The charity has been active in Singapore for the last three years, and involvement has been steadily growing. So far, more than 7,000 Singaporeans have taken part, raising more than $2 million for men’s health programmes facilitated by the Singapore Cancer Society. A significant amount of the cash goes towards global research into the prevention and cure of prostate cancer, alongside the other men’s health campaigns it promotes.
Paul Villanti, Executive Director of Programmes for Movember, leads the Movember Foundation’s Global Action Plan and its investments in prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health initiatives. He was in Singapore recently to speak about this year’s campaign. He said: “We want to reduce the mortality rate from prostate cancer and improve the quality of lives for those who have it. There are many types of prostate cancer. Many are harmless but a lot are lethal. One of the key challenges for medical research is distinguishing between the two.”
The charity has grown from humble beginnings in 2003 in Melbourne, when 30 men first grew moustaches. Since then, Movember has grown to become a truly global movement, inspiring more than four million Mo Bros and Mo Sistas to participate worldwide. A total of US$717 million has been raised which is funding more than 800 programmes aimed at improving men’s health.
For Singapore, the Movember campaign’s latest twist is to emphasise the “move” in Movember. “We want to remind people that exercise should be part of their day lives. By living a healthier lifestyle reduces your chances of getting cancer. We want people to commit to exercise for 30 days,” added Mr Villanti.
The reason exercise has been chosen as the focal point for this year is that there has been a stark decline in physical activity due to our more sedentary lifestyles using mobile devices, social media and sitting for long hours at a desk. In 2013, more deaths were attributed to physical inactivity (5.3 million) than smoking (5 million). Physical inactivity is the main cause for about 21% to 25% of breast and colon cancer, and 27% of diabetes.
Movember isn’t just a month-long campaign to raise awareness of prostate cancer, the same way Earth Hour isn’t just one hour a year to highlight global warming. Instead, it is in using cause marketing as a powerful tool to communicate the importance of men’s health. This vision finds Mr Villanti travelling all over the world to promote Movember. As for Asian men growing moustaches and beards, he said: “There is a bit of a myth that they can’t grow them but I have seen some pretty impressive ones here in Singapore and back in Australia. Sometime their partners don’t always appreciate them but know it’s all for a good cause.’’
Having interviewed the effervescent Mr Villanti, a man very passionate about raising awareness of prostate cancer, I have been convinced to do my bit for Movember and grow a beard or moustache during the month. If the haze sticks around, then a moustache may be my best bet as I could act as a useful filter for the pollution.
Expect to see plenty more beards, moustaches and sideburns on the streets of Singapore this November.
To sign up for Movember and to find out more about all its associated events and activities, see sg.movember.com.