Growing mustaches to start conversation


A new mustache on a previously clean-shaven guy usually invites comments and notice.

Movember — a national event when men grow mustaches during November — raises awareness for men’s health issues like prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health, capitalizing on reactions to new facial hair.

“It’s a conversation starter,” said Karriem Watson, director of community engaged research and a member of UIC’s first Movember team, the UIC Prostate Cancer Group.

The group, 35 men from departments including pathology, urology, otolaryngology, oncology, UI Health administration and the Cancer Center, started from scratch with clean-shaven faces Nov. 1.

Movember team leader Michael Abern, assistant professor and director of urologic oncology, started the group to raise awareness about the importance of screenings to detect prostate cancer for African American men.

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., but African American men are 2.5 times as likely to die from prostate cancer than white men and develop the disease at an earlier age than other men, he said.

“These men are at a higher risk for developing prostate cancer earlier than the general population, sometimes as young as in their 30s, and we also see lots of more severe disease among men earlier in this group. To save these men, we need to detect prostate cancer earlier when treatment outcomes are better,” Abern said.

Khari Reed, senior director of clinical service lines at UI Health, joined the team because prostate cancer runs in his family. Both his father and his great-uncle are survivors of prostate cancer.

Craig Niederberger, professor and head of urology, joined his colleagues to support the cause although he expected some disapproval of the ’stache from his family, based on their reactions in the past.

Abern looks forward to reuniting the UIC Movember team next year. He hopes that some of his patients will join, bringing their moustaches into the community to spark conversation and motivate more men to get screened for prostate cancer.


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