This month some men will be growing their beards in favor of supporting No-Shave November, an international cause to raise awareness for various types of male health issues, specifically prostate and testicular cancer.
Several advocacy websites for No-Shave November offer participants the opportunity to make a tax-deductible donation to a charity for cancer research. No-shavenovember.com, suggests that participants donate what they would regularly spend on razor blades or barber shop visits to the American Cancer Society instead.
“The goal of No-Shave November is to grow awareness by embracing our hair, which many cancer patients lose, and letting it grow to generate awareness and donations for the cause,” Christine Hill, co-founder of no-shavenovember.com said. “No-Shave gives meaning to the action and sparks that conversation. It allows our supporters to tell others why they are doing it.”
Hill added that their site’s donations have grown every year since the website was founded in 2009, and this month’s donations surpassed $80,000 as of Nov. 11.
“Cancer is very prevalent in today’s society [and] something that men and women of all ages should be made more aware of,” Hill said. “Many of us have been affected by cancer in one way or another, whether by a friend, neighbor or close relative. We know that with healthcare, time can make a big difference – with cancer, early detection can give you that chance.”
According the American Cancer Society, about one in six men in the United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during the course of their lives, and more than 200,000 American males are afflicted with the disease each year. An additional 8,000 are annually diagnosed with testicular cancer.
Prostate and testicular cancers are some of the least lethal types of cancers, according to www.cancer.org. The website states that, according to medical professionals, as with any other type of cancer, early screenings and diagnoses are pertinent to a patient’s survival rate.
“The risk of dying from [testicular] cancer is very low: about 1 in 5,000,” the website states. The site also notes that the relative five-year survival rate for prostate cancer that is caught early, is near 100 percent, but advanced stage IV prostate cancer has a survival rate of only 28 percent, underscoring the incentive for men to regularly receive tests and screenings for those types of cancers.
Dr. James Konopack, an associate professor and the Chair of the University’s Department of health and physical education, believes that No-Shave November, like other cancer awareness projects, can be effective in promoting the awareness of male cancers and preventive screenings for them.
“I think a campaign like this is positive if it can help convince more men to take care of themselves and get preventive health screenings. Many men are great about changing the oil in their cars or planning for their financial future but are reluctant to maintain their health with such care,” Konopack said.
Konopack continued, “Although we can’t completely eliminate our risk of illness, there is value in knowing what influences both our short and long-term health and how much of that is within our control.”
Joseph Dibianca, a senior communication major, is participating in No-Shave for the first time. He didn’t think about growing a beard until the month began and admitted he was initially just “kind of lazy about shaving”, but then decided to finish growing a beard for the campaign.
“I came into the month of November with some-what of a beard already so I figured I’d continue to let it grow for the awareness cause,” Dibianca said. “I am a big firm believer in [causes] to raise awareness for such vital diseases, especially with cancer.”
Dibianca anticipates that the No-Shave November cause will continue to grow on him and other University students as the month moves along. “No-Shave November does become fun and almost like a friendly competition when you have others participate to do so with you,” he said.
While some may consider growing their beards out a fun activity for a worthy cause, Konopack compares facial hair growth to pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness: he said they don’t do anything to help on their own, but are effective tools used to raise awareness about the illnesses.
“The facial hair thing is only truly effective if it helps raise money or creates dialogue that ultimately changes behavior or improves access to care,” he said.
Konopack shared a personal anecdote about an effective No-Shave November campaign. “I have a colleague at another university who is normally clean-shaven but grew his beard to raise money for men’s health research. An old friend of mine also did this a few years ago. Both used a fundraising website and received lots of support, and their photos and stories generated some great discussion,” Konopack said.
Students in relationships participating in No-Shave November will also have to walk the razor-thin line between raising awareness and keeping their significant other happy.
According to a study conducted by the University of New South Wales earlier this year, the majority of women prefer men to be clean-shaven.
Konopack suggests that students should keep their own lives in perspective while they participate in No-Shave November.
“My take is, don’t be afraid to be an idealist, living in pursuit of higher standards, but don’t jeopardize an intimate relationship just to grow a symbolic beard. There are so many other ways to help, from donating money, maybe even in your partner’s name, to volunteering your time and energy to help worth causes,” he said.
Dibianca, meanwhile, wouldn’t consider cutting his No-Shave November campaign short. “I would say [to anyone that asks] that it’s for a good cause and to raise awareness for male illnesses such as cancer, and that my facial hair shouldn’t even bother [anyone] in the first place.”
Jessica Fasano, a junior education major, said she wouldn’t mind her boyfriend growing a beard for cancer awareness, but hinted that she wouldn’t be thrilled if he decided to keep it. “Anything that promotes something in regards to cancer awareness and research is a great cause. It would be selfish of me to stop anyone from doing that. But, I might offer to shave my boyfriend’s face for him on December first,” she said.