Faint, thin black mustaches are growing on Carlos Araya’s and Hugo Monge’s upper lips. Though they are not yet noticeable at first glance, by the end of November, they are expected to be in full bloom.
Neither Araya, 34, nor Monge, 20, are planning on shaving their mustaches this month. The reason? They hope to bring awareness to the fight against prostate cancer, the leading cause of cancer in men in the Americas, according to the American Cancer Society.
Last week on Facebook, Araya and Monge launched “Movember Costa Rica,” a worldwide campaign to promote awareness and “support men with prostate cancer by growing a mustache during the month of November.”
On Nov. 1, Araya, Monge, “Movember Costa Rica” Facebook followers and teachers at the British School of Costa Rica joined the movement.
“In Costa Rica, the reality is that there is a lack of awareness and information about prostate cancer, as well as very few facilities that offer procedures and treatment options to fight it,” Araya said. “Everyone seems to have an uncle, relative or friend that has prostate cancer, and our mission is to educate and create more awareness.”
While Araya and Monge are the first to launch the initiative in Costa Rica, the Movember movement is quickly becoming a worldwide phenomenon. Since its founding by a group of friends who decided to grow mustaches in Australia in November 2003, Movember has amassed more than 450,000 participants and raised more than $178 million across dozens of countries.
Araya said the response on Facebook has been overwhelming. In a week’s time, the site had 900 “likes,” with dozens of comments. Followers will submit photos of their mustache progress throughout the month. Araya said the group is in the process of being recognized by the U.S.-based Movember Foundation, and is scheduling a local rugby match on Nov. 11 to raise funds.
“Once we get enough support and members throughout the country, at that point we will look into things like Movember fundraisers and events,” he said.
According to Costa Rica’s Social Security System, 805 people were diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010, up from 559 in 2000. The Health Ministry reported that 395 men died from the disease in 2010, accounting for 18 percent of cancer-related deaths of men last year. Only stomach cancer had a higher percentage of deaths in 2010 for both men and women.
The Origins of Movember
In 2003, Adam Garone, a Movember founder and current CEO of the organization, talked with friends over beers about reviving a mustache trend. They held a 30-day “best mustache” contest.
“When the group came back to the bar and started telling their stories from mustache growing season, they realized that all their stories were alike in that the mustaches sparked an incredible amount of conversation,” said Donny Killian, who leads the U.S. Movember campaign. “Inspired by the women’s pink movement [for breast cancer awareness], they discussed how there wasn’t really a men’s health movement equivalent that yet existed. The following year, Movember officially began.”
In 2004, Movember’s first year associated with the fight against prostate cancer, 450 people sported a mustache and raised more than $54,000. In 2010, Movember raised more than $72 million.
“Movember has given men a way to participate without having to put on a blue T-shirt or blue sneakers or something like that, to generate awareness for prostate cancer,” said Dan Zenka, senior vice president of communications at the U.S.-based Prostate Cancer Foundation. “It’s a wonderful phenomenon that is also reaching a younger audience. Males aged 25 to 40 are a very important audience, and it is really teaching them about what prostate cancer is all about and making them advocates for [fighting] the disease.”
According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, more than 16 million men worldwide are currently battling prostate cancer-related illnesses. Through the first 10 months of the year, more than 33,000 men died from the disease in the U.S.
Zenka, who is currently suffering from prostate cancer, said that early detection and routine checkups are the most efficient methods to catch prostate cancer at an early stage. He said that men should consider having their prostate examined before the age of 40, and should do so every year or two after that, depending on doctor recommendations.
Zenka also said that since the creation of Movember the amount of prostate examinations in the U.S. has increased significantly.
“Movember has done more to raise awareness of prostate cancer and discussion of the disease than any other effort I can think of,” Zenka said. “Prostate cancer is to men what breast cancer is to women and it has often lagged in awareness. Movember is changing that.”
Grow That ’Stache
The rules of Movember are simple. Participants shave all facial hair on Oct. 31. On Nov. 1, the first day of “Movember,” shaving the mustache region is prohibited for the duration of the month, while shaving the rest of the face is required. Handlebar mustaches are allowed, though they cannot connect to other facial hair.
For more, see www.movember.com and “Movember Costa Rica” on Facebook.