As October comes to an end, the pinks that signified another successful breast cancer awareness month are to be replaced with something slightly more masculine - moustaches. Yes, that's right, it's November...or should I say Movember. A month where men across the globe grow a moustache for the entire month to raise much-needed awareness and funds for men's health. And I too am planning to sport a hairy upper lip and become a Mo Bro for the month ahead.
For those of you unfamiliar with the movement, Movember is a relatively new endeavour. It was started by a small group of men in Adelaide, Australia, in 2003 and has since spread to every corner of the globe, with around 1.9 million people formally registered to date. Its aim: to raise awareness surrounding male-specific health conditions, such as impotence, testicular cancer and prostate cancer.
The rules are simple. Register at movember.com to become a Mo Bro, start 1 November with a clean shaven face and for the whole month, grow and groom a moustache. The moustache must not join sideburns or chin hair (in other words, no beards). Oh, and most importantly, each Mo Bro must conduct himself like a 'true gentleman'.
I'm sure some people might class Movember as 'silly', 'pointless' or just an excuse for men to annoy their other half. But not only does the visual impact and conversation generated by sprouting moustaches help get men's health in the medical spotlight, Movember raises vital funds for awareness and education programmes, as well as charities such as Prostate Cancer UK. And this year, Bupa is joining forces with Movember to support the campaign and fly the flag for men's health throughout the next month.
When it comes to health niggles and worries, men are notorious for sticking their heads in the sand and ignoring a potential health problem. In fact, in Great Britain, men visit their GP 20% less frequently than women do. And a study conducted by Leeds Metropolitan University highlighted that over a third of men (who were surveyed) had never consulted their GP and over half had never used health advice or information services. Many men often find it hard to be open about medical problems, especially if it may be embarrassing to talk about or it concerns an intimate area. A lot of women visit their doctor or a nurse from a young age, maybe for contraception or cervical screening, and tend to be more comfortable in a medical environment.
Although Movember aims to raise awareness for all male health conditions, it has been strongly associated over the years with prostate cancer. In the past, prostate cancer has often been a subject of neglect, almost a taboo subject for many men. The stigma surrounding it is now starting to dissolve and awareness of the disease has grown enormously over the past decade. With the birth of concepts such as Movember, the hope is that hush-hush topics become discussed topics, encouraging men to be aware of symptoms, to talk about their health more openly and to seek care before it's too late.
This year, we want to help Movember really step it up. In 2011, over 854,000 people around the world joined in and £79.3 million was raised. What has been achieved so far through this movement has been massive, but there's still a big gap between women's and men's attitudes to health. It's not just men who can get involved over the next few weeks. Ladies, become 'Mo Sistas', supporting the Mo Bros you know. Even international companies and large organisations are getting involved - last year, the airline Qantas celebrated Movember by painting a large moustache on one of its aircrafts. Let's see what we can achieve this year.
So, Mo Bros, it's time to prepare your skin, your grooming kit, and even your partner for a prickly month ahead. Grow a Mo to spark a lot of fun conversation, raise some money and help change the face of men's health...literally.
Follow Dr Sneh Khemka on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drsneh