Would you grow a mustache to raise money for cancer?

Back in 2003, a few guys from Australia wanted to do something to raise awareness about men’s health. As a joke, each of them started growing a mustache and vowed not to shave until the end of November. When anyone would ask them why they were sporting new facial hair, they would tell them they were doing it to raise awareness about men’s prostate and testicular cancer. From this, the Movember phenomenon began. 

After seeing how many people asked them about their mustaches in 2003, the founders decided to recruit more friends to help them in 2004 and began to raise money for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia. They had 450 “Mo Bros” join and raised $55,000 for the Foundation. Over the next five years, participation has gone global and in 2009, over 250,000 people participated in Movember either as “Mo Bros” growing mustaches or as “Mo Sistas” — women helping to support their efforts. Together, they raised $42 million dollars for LIVESTRONG, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, and other global cancer fighting partners. 

Doug Ulman, CEO of LIVESTRONG, talks about the impact of Movember.  

Co-founder and CEO Adam Garone answered some questions about the origins of Movember and the future plans for the project.

Why did you decide to grow a mustache?

Movember began as a joke to resurrect the moustache from its 70s heyday.    

It started as a challenge created over a few beers on a Sunday afternoon in Melbourne, Australia in 2003.  We re-named November, Movember and created some simple rules – start the month clean-shaven and grow a moustache for 30 days.  Our first Movember moustaches embarrassed girlfriends, were condemned by bosses, were ridiculed by friends but it humored us greatly.  

As our “Mo’s” (slang for moustache in Australia) grew in, we immediately took note of their incredible ability to start conversations – everywhere we went, people asked, “Why the moustache?”  We realized if we were to attach a cause to our moustaches, we could justify growing them and they could become super-effective vehicles for spreading positive information.  

Why men’s cancer?

I was, and still am inspired by the phenomenal work of the women’s health movement to raise awareness about breast cancer.

Men’s health, cancers that affect men in particular prostate cancer, is a neglected and under served cause.

30% more men are diagnosed with prostate cancer than women are breast cancer.  The mortality rate and impact on society is the same. Yet there is no significant campaign for that cause – until Movember, the moustache has become our pink ribbon.  

Over the past 5 years, how much has Movember raised globally?

Movember 2004 was our first fundraising year, which saw 450 ‘Mo Bros’ growing moustaches that collectively raised $55,000 for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, which was the single biggest donation they had ever received.

Since then Movember has become a global movement.  In 2010 there will be more than 450,000 ‘Mo Bros’ spread across Australia, US, UK, Canada, South Africa, Spain, Ireland, and the Netherlands.  This Movember alone, they will raise $70 Million

Since we started Movember has raised more than $170 Million for our beneficiary partners, making Movember the single biggest funder of prostate research and support programs in the world.

What are the projections for how many people are participating this year?

In 2010 there will be more than 450,000 ‘Mo Bros’ spread across Australia, US, UK, Canada, South Africa, Spain, Ireland, and the Netherlands.  This Movember alone, they will raise $70 Million.

What do you think Movember’s impact on raising awareness has been?

Of equal importance to the funds raised is the engagement of these men in their health and the awareness they are creating through the millions of conversations they are having throughout Movember justifying their new look.  

People are consistently startled when they learn that 1 in 2 men (and 1 in 3 women) will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lifetime, and that 35% more men are diagnosed with prostate cancer than women are breast cancer.  The threat of cancer is very real, yet awareness among men about these risks and the preventative measures they can take is very low.

In keeping with long-established social traditions, men are, generally speaking, more reluctant to discuss their health or visit health professionals.  Making fewer visits to the doctor, it follows that men are broadly unaware of the variety of health risks they face as they grow older, and of what steps they can take to minimize those risks.  Making fewer visits to the doctor also reduces men’s chances of detecting cancer at early stages, when it is potentially curable.  Most cancers are highly curable if caught in the early stages, including prostate and testicular cancer.  By increasing early detection, diagnosis and effective treatment, we can ultimately reduce the number of deaths from cancer.  

We know that because of Movember, 39% of the participants make an appointment with a doctor; we know that 36% of the participants recommend someone else to see a doctor, typically their father or uncle. We know the conversations a Movember moustache creates is changing and saving lives.

What are your plans for the future of Movember?

To make Movember international men’s health awareness month.  To effectively cure prostate cancer through a combination of awareness, funding a more accurate screening test than the current PSA and funding more effective treatment options.

What are some tips you would give other people looking to create momentum around a cause they care about?

Be passionate, persist, be patient and create something unique that people can rally behind.

Photo source: Movember.com


Judith Valente
Judith Valente6 years ago

No problem here. Where do I send mine? Lol!

Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado7 years ago

Not everyone can grow a moustache. Some do not have facial hair.

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W7 years ago

I'm a woman, so I don't think I would be able to grow a moustache.

Mathijs De Maersschalck
Past Member 7 years ago

I learned alot from the comments today that i didn't know. Great read anyway, thanks for posting.

Leni Pearce
Leni Pearce7 years ago

Trillions of dollars have been poured into the cancer industry -- and huge, profitable industry is exactly what it is! Meantime, more people are getting cancer that ever from all the toxins and filth in our food and environment, and these unfortunates are then treated conventionally with mutilation and poison. My support is for alternative cancer remedies, which is the route I shall go myself if I should ever get the disease.

Den S.
Dennis Sweitzer7 years ago

I suppose that women are welcome show support as well by growing a mustache?

Pandute A P
Pandute AP7 years ago

Sounds funny but really much better way than some ideas about breast cancer awareness.

nancy sands
Nancy sands7 years ago

How about a beard?

Jennifer T.
Jennifer T7 years ago

I already have a moustache. Starting a goatee as well. Would be nice if it were useful for Something.

Eug F.
Eug F.7 years ago

@Jean M. What?? A simple cure as opposed to treatments that cost hundreds of thousands?? Cancer treatment has to be a multibillion dollar industry and as a result-theres no cure coming!! This group here has raised $70 mill according to the article-Id like just one of them to tell me where that money went-even an address where one check was sent. Im betting they cant do it. Just toss that money into the "a cure is just around the corner" abyss....The problem with every disease is we just treat the symptoms-never the cause. Im not donating anything until the cancer groups start showing where the money is being spent. Anyway Jean Im glad youre well. Thanks for sharing.