It's November. In Chicago, that can either mean people all freeze to death from an arctic blast or that individuals dodge tourists from Indiana who just have to get a glimpse of the Marshall Field's windows this year.
For many men, it also means sporting a mustache. This is not a new fashion trend started by Tom Ford to increase sales of mustache wax. For many men both here in Chicago and around the world, it means the start of Movember.
The Movember Foundation is the world's only charity dedicated exclusively to men's health issues. These include prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention. Since its inception in 2003, the Movember Foundation has raised more than $120 million in the United States and $769 million worldwide for research and support of men's health issues.
Movember seeks to increase the awareness of men and women by having participants grow a mustache during the month of November. Clearly most women cannot grow a mustache but that does not mean women are excluded from participation. They are encouraged to support their "Mo-Bro's" choice to grow a mustache, donate to Movember or participate in MOVE, a fitness and nutrition challenge performed in conjunction with Movember.
The Movember Foundation also has a history of LGBT support. Joe Stark, part of the Movember team, said, "Movember has always supported the LGBT community and has encouraged diversity." Gay men who participate in Movember and their allies can don a rainbow mustache pin. In Chicago alone, we have dozens of LGBT individuals participating to raise money for men's health. This is Clint Sabin's first year getting involved with Movember.
"My family has had several cancer scares. My father has been diagnosed and has beaten skin, thyroid and most recently prostate cancer," said Sabin. "I thought that this was important. Early health screenings are crucial to beating cancer. Many young people just don't know about this subject and have a feeling of invincibility or that 'this could never happen to me.' And that just isn't true." Sabin stressed the importance of awareness that Movember brings to the issue of men's health particular cancer screenings for prostate and testicular cancer.
According to doctors at Columbia University Hospital, men become at-risk for testicular cancer as young as 15 and continue to have a higher risk for developing testicular cancer well into their late 30s. Doctors with the American Cancer Society recommend weekly self-screens that can be done in the shower. They also recommend that men start talking to their doctors about prostate cancer around the age of 50. But if the man has a family history of prostate cancer, it is a good idea to start as young as 40.
Movember is no longer focused solely on cancers that affect men. Shocking statistics regarding men's mental health brought that issue under Movember's umbrella. Sabin was shocked by the numbers. "Seventy-five percent of all suicides are men. That means men are three times more likely than women to commit suicide and that shocked me," he said.
Ulises Martinez, too, found new meaning with his participation with Movember. Martinez said, "An artista musician that I loved from Linkin Parkcommitted suicide this year, and it was devastating." Chester Bennington died at age 41; according to the coroner's report, Bennington committed suicide by hanging himself. "I've been involved with Movember for a few years but this really got to me, Thirty-eight men kill themselves every day," added Martinez.
Martinez was particularly fond of the advocacy that the Movember Foundation does for men and men's health issues. "There just isn't as much as a male presence for health issues like this. It is good to know that there is an organization out there who is advocating for cancer and suicide prevention for men. They encourage men to help one another out," he said. When asked whether he noticed a different attitude towards the gay men participating in the even neither Sabin nor Martinez saw anything out of the ordinary. "This is a men's health advocacy group. We all fit under that whether we are gay or straight," said Sabin. "I've had nothing but positive experiences with Movember. I was really excited about a rainbow mustache pin that they have out. I'm not sure it's new but it's new to me," added Martinez.
The Movember Foundation operates year round. However, their Movember in November event is the more recognized. The goal is simple- increase the awareness of everyone to issues particular to men's health. Money raised by Movember goes to institutions seeking to treat men suffering with cancer or mental illness as well as research groups pursuing a cure for men's cancers.
For more information about Movember, visit Movember.com to donate or get involved.