For one brief moment this month I thought I was a trendsetter; a man of the moment; a fifty-year-old icon of fashion.
What was the cause of the delusion that I had become a leading light in the world of masculine style? It was the realisation that upper lips were becoming hirsute; or at least some male ones were. As someone who has sported lip foliage ever since my teenage days (apart from when fellow students shaved it off during a university Rag Week in 1980), I was happy to form the advance party of 21st century masculine chic.
Then I read about 'Movember'; the Canadian-based movement to raise awareness of prostate cancer. Now, for older readers of this column, the name Little Mo may bring back memories of the 1950s tennis star, Maureen Connolly. However, younger readers may be more familiar with the character from the soap opera, EastEnders. Nonetheless, I suspect that neither group will immediately guess that 'mo' is slang for moustache, and that these chaps are therefore in the process of sprouting a 'little mo'; hence the renaming of last month as Movember; witty people those Canadians.
So, you may well be asking what all the fuss (or fuzz?) is about. It involves the recognition that 35,000 men per year develop prostate cancer. It is the second most common cancer in men, with a 1-in-13 lifetime chance of developing it. 90% of cases occur in men over the age of 60, and there is a 2.5 times greater chance of developing it if there is a family history of prostate cancer.
That makes for some cheerful reading, doesn't it? However, before you decide all is lost, there are certain things you can do to help reduce your individual risk or improve your chance of responding successfully to treatment. Preventative measures include adopting the healthy lifestyle we keep hearing about, which means eating less saturated fat, meat and dairy products; all of which adversely influence the risk of prostate cancer.
The next action is not to ignore any urinary symptoms. Whilst problems with urinary flow and middle-of-the-night 'calls of nature' are familiar to many older men, do not ignore such issues, and certainly do not ignore the presence of blood in the urine: go and have a chat with your GP. Not all of these symptoms suggest prostate cancer, and (except for bleeding) may be caused by age-related growth of the prostate. However, your GP may recommend a blood test and possibly a scan; neither test being unpleasant to have.
Oh, and how is your sex life, chaps? According to Italian scientists, a healthy sex life makes men live longer. Apparently, sexual activity reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes, and helps to avoid prostate problems.
So, gentlemen, although the month of Movember is now over, still give consideration to your prostate and go to it! I will leave you to decide whether that means growing a winter moustache; you may find some of the alternative activities are more enticing...
(This article was first published in the Scunthorpe Telegraph on Thursday 25th November 2010)