The Spirit of Movember

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I thought Movember was a smashing success.

Frankly I assumed it would flop—the pink tide of October is the kind of act you ordinarily do not want to follow. Furthermore, Movember is in competition with a pair of staggeringly bleak diseases: November has been adopted by both the lung cancer awareness month folks and the pancreatic cancer awareness month crew.

But there really isn't much competition:

With a 5 year survival rate of 3.5% in metastatic disease, lung cancer should at least promote public sympathy. But SEER statistics estimate 222,520 new lung cancer diagnoses in the US each year. About 15% of those cases will be in people who never smoked, leaving 189,000 lung cancer patients whom society writes off as having done it to themselves. Again, no competition.

Meanwhile, pancreatic cancer strikes over 43,000 Americans each year. With an extraordinarily dismal 5 year survival rate of just 1.9%, it's no surprise that almost 37,000 people die of the disease each year in the US.



Into this austere atmosphere, enter Movember, an Australian-born mustache movement just seven years old in which guys grow staches to draw attention to men's health issues, including prostate cancer.

My local hockey obsession, the Texas Stars (three of them featured to the right), fully participated in Movember—inspired in part by the fact that their assistant coach, Paul Jerrard, had previously received radiation and chemotherapy for prostate cancer.


In theory, Movember seems like bad timing, and ordinarily I think it would be, but for the spirit of the movement: It's fun. Absurd. Guys get to ridicule each other's stache or lack thereof. Meanwhile, organizers are partnering with Livestrong and the Prostate Cancer Foundation, recruiting an ever-growing list of Mo Growers, and raising millions in support of men's health issues. The Stars did a video spot for Movember (below) that perfectly captures the spirit of the movement.

Movember's founders were inspired by their peers campaigning to end breast cancer, who in turn were inspired by the great pioneers of grass roots health advocacy--the "angry, aware and articulate" AIDS activists of the 1980s whose astonishing and unprecedented tenacity transformed a sure death sentence into a manageable disease.

Movember is silly. It's funny. It's simple. It has a strong pedigree. And it saves men's lives. Who ever could have guessed that stupid mustache could do so much good.

By Ross Bonander

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