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Fighting Cancer, One Mustache at a Time

  • June Soh

Prostate cancer is known to be the most frequently-diagnosed cancer in men, with more than 16 million patients fighting the disease globally. There is now a grass-roots movement to raise awareness about the prostate cancer, that is growing fast worldwide.And just as the pink ribbon stands for breast cancer awareness in October, mustaches symbolize this movement in November. VOA’s June Soh has more on the story. Lisa McAdams narrates her report.

In an ice rink outside Washington, the members of the city’s professional ice hockey team, the Capitals, are practicing. If you look at their faces, you can see that about a dozen of them have something in common -- a mustache. They are among more than one million men around the world who started growing mustaches in November.

“People might laugh, 'you guys look funny.' but I don’t mind doing it. I have been doing it past a few years. It is just fun to do. I think it is just a great cause,” said Mathieu Perreault. He and his team members are participating in "Movember." It is a month-long campaign that enlists men to grow mustaches -- to raise funds and awareness for men’s health, especially prostate cancer.

Mark Kirwan, a restaurant owner in Arlington, Virginia, says his mustache is a conversation starter with the customers. "The main reason that myself and the staff and patrons participate in Movember is very personal to me. From being a family of cancer free for all of our lives, three of our family members have developed cancers in the last year," he said.

"Movember" started as a small campaign in Australia in 2004. Since then, it has grown into a global movement and raised more than $170 million for cancer research, education and survivorship programs.

“One in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. And one in two men will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. So they are very comparable to women’s stats," said Donny Killian, its U.S. country manager.

Movember’s participants are called “Mo Bros”. Mo is Australian slang for mustache.

There are also "Mo Sistas", women who support the cause. Janet Ciciarelli got involved because her husband was participating.

"Part of my personal battle is to be seen in public with him with a mustache for the month of November. But we also raise awareness and raise money through our Facebook pages and Twitter," she said.

Supporters engage in creative attention-getting activities, such as competition for donations. Luke Rosa is a teacher at Falls Church High School in Virginia, which has 21 “Mo Bros," including both teachers and students.

“Each week we put an updated picture up onto the board and students vote by putting in their spare change into the box for whichever teacher they feel like has grown the best mustache over that week,” Rosa said.

Rosa says the competition has helped make students aware of the cause.

“It has been a blast ((been a lot of fun)), the guys who are doing it, being able to laugh at each other // but at the same time, while we are laughing at it, while we are talking about it, we are always constantly raising awareness about men’s health,” Rosa said.

Supporters say while the campaign is for a serious cause, it is also about celebrating life and having fun. And they say the lighthearted approach allows people rally around the campaign around the world.

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