Why November is the Hairiest Month of the Year

Well it’s that time of year again folks. When young (and old) men’s thoughts turn to turkey, football, and not having to shave their faces for a month!

Whether sprouting a mustache for Movember, or letting the whole face go for No Shave November, men around the country are taking up the cause to “spark conversation [about men’s health] and raise vital funds for its men’s health programs.”

The Movember Foundation, which began in 2003 in Australia, has  raised $559 million to date and funded over 800 programs in 21 countries. There have been over 4 million mustaches grown so far!

No Shave November was started in 2009 by Rebecca Hill  and her friend, Bret Ringdahl. Rebecca had lost her father to cancer and was looking for a way that anyone “could raise money to fight cancer and have fun doing it.”  Their concept- everyone spends some of their money on “grooming”, so:

“If just for November, those individuals gave that cost (ranging from a few dollars for razors to a $100 salon visit) to a cancer charity instead, friends and family alone could pool together a sizable chunk of change to help cancer patients and their families.”

In 2013, they teamed with the American Cancer Society, to ensure that raised funds were distributed to areas important to their team, namely research, prevention, education, and continuing care.

Celebrities such as Seth Rogen, Ethan Zohn, Hulk Hogan have participated in the programs. Last year, the entire Today show crew (in front and behind the camera) participated in No Shave November. As part of the educational function of the movement, Matt Lauer and Al Roker arranged to have prostate exams live “on the air.”

The Today team is back again this year, and this time they’ve gotten Carson Daly and Willie Geist to agree to “live”‘ testicular examinations. Geist’s wife, Christina, greeted the news with mild amusement. She asked her husband on Twitter, “Really honey?” to which he replied, “It was @CarsonDaly’s idea.”

General Men’s Health Stats in the US

  • Average life expectancy for men in the United States is almost five years less than women (76.2 years     compared to 81 years)
  • Around 15 million American adults (6.7% of the population) are diagnosed with depression each year.
  • 1 in 2 men will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime
  • More than one-third of adults (34.9%) in the United States are obese
  • 12.1% of men 18 years and over are in fair or poor health

Prostate Cancer Facts

  • Prostate cancer is the 2nd most common cancer in men in the United States
  • In 2014, more than 233,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer
  • 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime
  • 1 in 36 men will die from prostate cancer (about 29,480 men) accounting for about 22% of all male deaths from cancer
  • Risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer increases with age

Testicular Cancer Facts

  • Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men aged 15 – 35 years
  • About 8,820 new cases of testicular cancer are diagnosed in men each year
  • About 380 men will die of testicular cancer
  • Testicular cancer is generally rare in non-Caucasian populations worldwide
  • The five-year relative survival rate for men in the United States with localized testicular cancer is 99%

Mental Health Facts

  • 1 in 4 adults in the United States will experience a mental health problem in a given year
  • Around 15 million American adults (6.7% of the population) are diagnosed with depression each year
  • 1 in 5 adults each year experience an anxiety disorder
  • In 2010, a total of 38,364 Americans died by suicide and over three-quarters (79%) of these suicides were men
  • More than four times as many men as women die by suicide in the United States
Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.


  1. Monica Bodd

    November 21, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    One of the telltale signs of November is the flurry of moustaches around campus. So many of my friends have adopted this “No Shave November”, and whether is for a charitable reason or not, I think the concept is spectacular. The Movember Foundation has used this simple act to raise millions of dollars for mens health foundations. Beyond just fundraising however, the Movember Foundation and “No Shave November” are a very effective way of advertising and raising awareness about vital health information for people across the world. Similar events such as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and the Blue Pinky Anti-Bullying Campaign have used social media and doable everyday acts (painting your pinky, pouring ice on yourself, growing a moustache) to successfully raise awareness about health issues impacting so many. As Clive Seale points out in Media and Health, it has been continually proven that the most effective way to reach audiences is through information tailored to their ways of learning and entertainment. For example, a standard infomercial or documentary about healthcare is unlikely to have an impact on the medical knowledge of the layman audience. However, “edutainment” – the rise of combined entertainment and education especially in a medical connotation – is very likely to communicate the intended message to the audience. Furthermore, as the medical director of Greys Anatomy, Meg Marinis, emphasizes, this mixture of drama and education is statistically best-received by worldwide audiences; it is the most effective form of raising awareness. No Shave November and Movember Foundation have fruitfully educated people of different backgrounds about the medical issues facing us by mixing culturally savvy techniques with health education.

  2. Erich Wieshofer

    November 25, 2014 at 8:42 am

    Due to the fact that I cannot grow a full beard or an impressive mustache I will not be taking part in No Shave November or Movember, although I wish I could. I would truly enjoy being involved in this clever bit of marketing for cancer awareness. The genius of this month of facial hair promotion lies in its ability to generate not only awareness for men’s health but money for cancer research. As described in the article, the founders of the movement hope that every dollar saved by not shaving or grooming will be spent towards cancer research. While this facet of their movement may not be as appealing as simply growing a beard it is nonetheless important and I hope all who partake as well as those of us who notice the increased fuzz on the street donate to this great cause.
    Beyond its goal to increase donations to cancer research, it is clear that the most influential aspect of this movement is its ability to increase awareness and stimulate discussion about cancer. A man cannot hide a beard. It is easy to notice and will doubtless draw attention from friends and family if it only comes out of hiding once a year. Therefore, it is vital that those who partake understand the background of the movement and its goal to improve cancer awareness. This will allow them to have open and constructive discussions about cancer. The goal of the beard is to spark the conversation, a conversation that may lead to someone getting tested for lumps or reaching out to another friend or family member that is too embarrassed or afraid to be tested. As the article suggests, the presence of facial hair on TV talk and news shows also greatly augments the impact of this movement. Many trusted individuals in media, such as members of the Today show, are working to quell the public’s anxiety and fear of being diagnosed. Cancer is so often thought of as insurmountable or a death sentence but No Shave November and the conversations that people have in open forums as a result are quickly changing the ideas that we associate with the disease. Slowly but surely No Shave November has altered our society’s perception of cancer and a beard now stands for so much more than it ever has.
    The power of this movement truly lies in media and the way an image of a bearded man now conveys ideas of hope and community in relation to cancer. In the end, this movement perfectly accomplishes what any movement is meant to; motivate individuals to strive for change and spread the word albeit through hairy means.

  3. Francisca Acosta

    December 8, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    No shave November, a national campaign started in Fall of 20091, is a perfect example that entertainment and media can have a positive and lasting effect creating awareness and educating the public.
    This semester in our Medicine and Media course we discussed the role that different forms of media have on the public. Among my favorite topic discussed was Grey’s Anatomy. In our discussion, we analyzed how different episodes can cause a large impact on the viewer in terms of awareness of a condition or treatment. Among the episodes we watch, was “Pieces of Me”, where a women comes in wanting an abortion since she has HIV and wishes not to pass it on to the baby. The storyline continues with the doctors explaining to the patient that even though she does have HIV there are ways of preventing the passing of the disease to the baby. This episode was analyzed by The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, and it was found that “the proportion of viewers who were aware of the fact that an HIV-positive pregnant woman who gets the proper treatment has more than a 90% chance of having a healthy baby, quadrupled from 15% before the show to 61% after it aired, an increase of 46 percentage points.”2 Not Only does this show the power that media can have, but the importance that this be considered by the makers of programs such as theses.
    Our class had the opportunity to talk to Meg Marinis, the medical director and a writer for Grey’s Anatomy, about the role medical shows have on viewers. It was emphasized in our discussion that for better or for worst, entertainment TV is a health educator and they keep this in mind while writing the script, and have resources for viewers who may have further questions.
    Like Grey’s Anatomy, social media campaigns such as the ice bucket challenge and no shave November not only have a large impact on the public, but a responsibility in making sure that the information that is presented is accurate and easy to understand.

    1. “Our Story.” No Shave November 2014. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2014.
    2. “Television as a Health Educator: A Case Study of Grey’s Anatomy.” The Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation Television as a Health Educator A Case Study of GreysAnatomy Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2014.

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