Daryl Ilbury

Archive for November, 2012|Monthly archive page

Time to look like a porn star, guys!

In Eish!, Science on November 1, 2012 at 1:23 pm

“It stings the nostrils, in a good way”

The focus of this post is something that’s close to a man’s wallet: his prostate and his testicles.

This is Movember, a month when men are encouraged to embark on a journey of brave and creative facial hair grooming to raise awareness of men’s health, specifically two forms of cancer that are found only in men: prostate and testicular cancer.

Prostrate cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK. Each year about 36,000 men in the UK are diagnosed with the disease; and according to data released last year it kills a higher percentage of British men diagnosed with the disease than men in the US.

The prostate is a gland positioned between the penis and the bladder. It’s about the size of a walnut and its main function is the production of semen, the organic fluid that carries sperm. Although the causes of prostate cancer are still unknown, it is becoming clearer that certain men are more at risk than others. Men are more likely to develop prostate cancer if they are over 50; they have a history of prostate or breast cancer in their family; they are African-American or African-Caribbean; or their diet is high in fat, dairy or meat products.

Whereas prostate cancer affects older men, it is younger men who are more prone to testicular cancer. Although it is relatively rare – accounting for only 1% of cancers in men in the UK – because it mainly affects men between the ages of 20 and 55, it is the most common form of cancer in men of this age.

As people old enough to read this website should know, the role of the testicles is to produce the actual sperm that is carried in the semen created by the prostate. The prostate and testicles therefore have a critical link in what is the essence of being a man; hence the sensitivity around bolstering awareness of these diseases.

“So why the focus on growing a moustache?” I hear you ask. The answer to that is quite simple: because like prostate and testicular cancer, a moustache is something only men can develop. And so for this month, every year, men are encouraged to do just that: ‘develop’ a moustache for November – Movember – to show their solidarity with the struggle against prostate and testicular cancer. In a way, it’s the male equivalent of wearing a pink ribbon for breast cancer; just slightly more committed.

“More committed?!” I hear you gasp. Yes, more committed. Wearing a pink ribbon is easy, wearing a moustache is not. Whereas in some South Asian and Middle Eastern countries moustaches are still de rigueur, in many Western countries wearing a moustache invites all manner of ridicule. Type ‘famous moustaches’ into Google and you will be faced with historical figures such as Hitler, Stalin and Salvador Dali; outmoded movie stars like Tom Selleck and Chuck Norris; a pastiche of 70s porn stars; and, even worse, four members of the Village People. Hardly a ringing endorsement for a mo’.

Besides many women will complain that it tickles to kiss a man with a moustache, and not in a particularly pleasant way.

This is why for the month of Movember, women who support the men in their lives growing moustaches for the cause are afforded special status – they become Mo Sistas to the men’s Mo Bros.

It all sounds like a bit of a lark; and although there is a fun side to Movember, the driving philosophy behind it is very serious indeed. According to the official Movember website, the movement is now an active in Canada, the US, Europe, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

In the UK, men are encouraged to “become walking, talking billboards for the 30 days of November and through their actions and words raise awareness by prompting private and public conversation around the often ignored issue of men’s health”. This can be done through co-ordinated programmes in the media, encouraging debate through social media; and through raising funds for specific charities.

There are numerous YouTube campaigns that encapsulate this balance of having fun while campaigning for men’s health. The clips both entertain and educate; but more importantly they capture the spirit of the tens of thousands of committed men around the world who this year will grow a mo’ for November.

In the words of the legendary Ron Burgundy: “Sweet Lincoln’s mullet!”

Originally published on the Elements Science website