The Movember Foundation is best known for its annual awareness campaign for prostate cancer, but it also focuses on other cancers and men’s mental health.
That means leaves are falling, the scent of pumpkin is in the air, and mustaches are growing.
Yes, Movember is here again.
The annual event to raise awareness about men’s health by encouraging men to grow facial hair above their upper lip has become commonplace.
In many cases, the campaign is done as a fun challenge in offices and in online forums.
But, make no mistake, the Movember Foundation is tackling serious issues.
Their slogan this year: “Stopping men dying too young.”
The line is drawn from a single statistic.
On average, men die six years younger than women do.
“Men are dying from largely preventable issues,” Doug Prusoff, a spokesperson for the Movember Foundation, told Healthline.
“So, for us, getting that awareness out about that and hopefully getting guys to take their health a bit more seriously and talk about it differently, to take action differently,” he added.
Among the afflictions in men’s health that are highlighted this month are testicular cancer, prostate cancer, and mental health, particularly suicide.
“Every minute of every day around the world a man takes his own life from suicide,” Prusoff said. “I don’t think you hear a lot of people talk about it. Suicide, particularly in men, is something that is swept under the rug and that people try not to address.”
In addressing mental health, Prusoff frames much of what the organization is doing today around “conversations” — encouraging and fostering dialogue.
He says men need a push to speak to their healthcare providers, significant others, and even each other.
“There’s so much work that needs to be done about reshaping the conversation about masculinity, changing the way guys are thinking about these issues,” Prusoff said. “Not just the way they are thinking about it, but actual behaviors in terms of getting guys to go to the doctor more, to open up about these things sooner and more often.”
Despite the major issues remaining largely the same year after year, the group’s focus changes slightly.
The mental health initiative is not a new endeavor. It developed a few years after the organization’s founding in 2003.
Cancer — both testicular and prostate — remain serious health concerns for men, no matter your age.
In 2016, testicular cancer was the most common cancer in men between the ages of 15 and 44. The average age of diagnosis is 33. That’s significantly lower than other prevalent forms of cancer.
One in seven men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime, making it the most common cancer in men.
Early detection is key, according to Prusoff.
That, he says, leads back into the idea that men should be speaking more openly about potential health problems.
“Not waiting until things are so drastically terrible that there are less options in terms of treatment that they can possibly receive,” said Prusoff.
Prusoff is particularly excited about the foundation’s TrueNTH program, a web-based prostate cancer navigation tool for men dealing with the disease.
For the Movember Foundation, the fight doesn’t end when everyone is shaving off their mustache on the first day of December.
They use “tent poles” throughout the year to raise awareness around certain issues:
- There is World Cancer Day in February.
- April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month. During that campaign, the Movember Foundation launched their “know thy nuts” campaign to encourage men to perform self-examinations.
- Father’s Day in June should prompt intergenerational conversations between fathers and sons about family health issues and talking man to man.
And research initiatives throughout the year never stop.
The foundation has funded 1,200 men’s health projects in 21 countries around the world.
Prusoff explains that they are doing serious work in the field and that the campaign is not just about mustaches anymore.
“The main focus at this point is making that shift from being successful to significant,” he said.
“When the foundation first started, there really was that focus on just getting as many participants in the door as possible, getting as many mustaches out there as possible, but we’ve matured as an organization. The main focus for us is that we are having that deeper, more substantial impact,” Prusoff added.
Still, there’s work to be done, not just in addressing the particular health problems ailing men around the world but also in dealing with the stigma as well.
“So much of it is so deeply ingrained in society in the way that men view their masculinity. I think a lot of guys were brought up with the idea that you have to ‘tough it out,’ ‘be a man,’ ‘power through this,’ and that mentality is really what leads guys to die too young,” said Prusoff.