Movember November

The American Biologist and the inventor of automated tool for the synthesis of DNA once said: “Don't underestimate the power of your vision to change the world. Whether that world is your office, your community, an industry or a global movement. You need to have a core belief that what you contribute can fundamentally change the paradigm or way of thinking about problems” 

Today is the first day of November, it is hard to imagine fifteen years ago, a group of young men in Adelaide, South Australia who coined the term “Movember” and the idea of growing moustaches for charity throughout the month of November in a pub can change the landscape of Men’s Health. 

The initial movement of Movember was actually for the benefit of RSPCA (Royal Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Animal) with a slogan of “Growing Whiskers for whiskers”. The campaign had such a memorable impact five years later, an unrelated group of 30 men in Melbourne decided to grown a moustache for 30 days in order to raise awareness for prostate cancer and depression in men. This group later became the Movember foundation charity. 

I guess the rest is history. In less than one decade, the movement had raised $174 million worldwide. In 2012 alone, 1.1 million people signed up to participate raising nearly 100 million dollars. That record earned the Movember foundation as one of the world’s top 100 NGOs by Global Journal. 

How did growth of facial hair change the face of men’s health? Are we having a revival of moustache in the likes of Tom Selleck who said: “There was a time I could have been mistakenfor Burt Reynolds. I had a moustache and so did he. But he was number one star in the world, so there wasn't really much confusion.” 

Today, we address the concerns of a reader about screening for male diseases and the importance of focusing on male issues that makes Movember movement the shinning star championing for male cancers.


Dear Dr. G,

Thank you so much for your weekly contributions to address taboo subjects with a great sense of humor and wit. I am certain in the month of November, you will take on more tasks of advocating the campaign for men’s health.

I am sixty years old. I think I am reasonably healthy and have good libido.

On one hand, I take pride in the ability to maintain my sexual parameters. On the other hand, I am rather nervous I may cause harm to myself.

Incidentally, I also understand the importance of check ups and self-examinations for male cancer. Can you comment on the methods and frequency of testicular and prostate self-examinations?



Prostate cancer is the cancer that arises from the gland at the base of the penis that is responsible for ejaculatory secretion. The gland is prone to cancerous changes in men with African descent and advancing age. Scientific data also highlighted obese men with high intake of animal fat have a higher prevalence of prostate cancer. 

Interestingly, men with the family history of breast cancer caused by BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are also more at risk of prostate cancer at earlier age. These are the same genes that affected Angelina Jolie and resulted in bilateral early removal of both breasts. In Malaysia, charities such as CARIF (Cancer Research Initiative Foundation) have been in the forefront in unraveling the mechanism of BRCA genes in causing prostate cancer in Malaysian men. 

With higher life expectancy and an increase sedentary lifestyles in males, the prevalence of prostate cancer is rising, even in the developing nations. This warrants for the early detection of such malignancies to ensure cures. 

The self-examination of prostates is impossible (unless you have a very long finger to reach the rectum). The current screening tool for prostate cancer is a simple blood test called PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen). As the protein released in the blood stream in both benign and cancerous glands, the test is not accurate and may cause some degree of anxiety when elevated. Despite the shortcoming, this test is the most non-invasive and economical mode for the detection. In recent years, Movember foundation has been one of the major contributors to the quest for the new generations of cancer markers for more accurate detection of prostate cancer. 

Testicular cancer is one of the success stories of cancer treatments. The breakthrough occurred after the discovery of platinum based chemotherapy regime by The Royal Marsden Hospital. 

There is no standard screening tests for testicular cancer. Most often, the cancer is found by chance when men examine themselves. Occasionally, physical examinations by physician may detect an early stage cancer. The sad fact is that testicular cancer affects men between the young ages of twenty to forty, but the cancer is virtually non-existence after the age of fifty. 

The most famous person who survived testicular cancer is perhaps Lance Armstrong. In recent years, many celebrities and sportsmen have been active in the campaign for men to self examine in hope to eradicate the cancer. 

The World Champion British Formula One driver, Jenson Button once said: “My Movemeber moustache was never going to be as big as Nigel Mansell’s. But I tried my best. The amazing thing is that when you try to grow a moustache, you notice everyone else’s. There are some amazing moustaches on the grid”. 

It took everyone by surprise how the simple growth of facial hair can generate awareness and breakdown the taboo of an embarrassing topic of cancer in the “men’s bits.” 

The true amazing thing is when you try to grow a moustache yourself, you don't only notice the “amazing moustaches on the grid”, but you also notice the power of a campaign movement that can save lives. Happy Movember November!

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