x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Men in UAE being educated on prostate cancer through Movember

Movember, a movement where men grow moustaches to raise awareness about prostate cancer, is taking off in the UAE.

Ashish Panjabi, the chief operating officer of Jacky's Electronics in Dubai, is not worried about sprouting a few grey hairs in his moustache for Movember, despite having been clean shaven for years.
Ashish Panjabi, the chief operating officer of Jacky's Electronics in Dubai, is not worried about sprouting a few grey hairs in his moustache for Movember, despite having been clean shaven for years.

DUBAI // Don't be surprised if you see a few Burt Reynolds and Tom Selleck lookalikes around town this month. The mustachioed look is not a new fashion trend, but a movement known as Movember that aims to get men talking about health issues.

Movember started in Australia in 2004, where men grew moustaches for the month to raise awareness about screening for prostate cancer and funds for treatment and research. Today, you can find "Mo Bros" around the world.

Ashish Panjabi, the chief operating officer of Jacky's Electronics in Dubai, read about it on Twitter and decided to shed his inhibitions with a style of facial hair last sported "back in the 1970s".

"'I've been clean shaven for several years now," said Mr Panjabi, who will also be blogging on health topics this month. "Now, you can see the grey hair coming. But it's all for a good cause. And the wife doesn't seem to mind."

Problems such as prostate cancer take on more meaning now that he has children. "There are lots of male-specific health ailments out there and you want to spread the word about prevention and treatment."

Prostate cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide and is the sixth leading cause of cancer mortality in men, often affecting men over 50 years old.

Last year there were 100 cases of prostate cancer reported in the UAE, according to health officials. About 41 per cent of the men discovered the disease or began treatment at stage four - the final stage and most difficult to treat.

Dr Amjad Farouk, a consultant urologist at Medcare Hospital in Jumeirah, said prostate cancer was fully curable if caught at an early stage.

"We are seeing a lot of patients who have this cancer," said Dr Farouk. "Not so much among the national population but many expatriates. I have about 20 to 30 patients this year."

Men over 40 should have a regular prostate-specific antigen blood test, he said. Those with a family history of the disease should do so from a younger age. "If the results come back abnormally high, we start him on antibiotics. If this is not helpful, we then proceed to a biopsy."

John Martin St Valery, 48, is enjoying sporting the "ridiculous" look this month. He said men consider themselves too macho to speak about such health issues.

"Over the last few years there have been really good awareness campaigns for women's health issues," said Mr Valery, who is the chief executive of the Links Group, company formation specialists.

"Perhaps men's health is more of a taboo subject and is not spoken about much."

The Briton, who has joined the Movember movement for the first time this year, was prompted by a personal incident. "A good friend was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the summer. He is fine now but it did open my eyes to the reality that it can happen to anybody."

His moustache is the butt of jokes, but to him that is what makes the idea click. "It's amusing and a humorous spin to a serious issues that gets men comfortable talking about it."

Panayoti Athanassiou, 32, works in sales and has been supporting the Movember movement for three years. "People get curious," he said. "It's like our pink ribbon for prostate cancer awareness."

DMTV, a lifestyle channel for Arab men, is running a campaign to highlight the movement. Male presenters will grow their moustaches and talk about it on the channel.

Chief executive Samar Sayegh said Movember had yet to catch on in the UAE. "A few people have started, but it is not popular enough yet," she said. She hopes her presenters will spawn a movement so the UAE can run a fully fledged campaign next year.

aahmed@thenational.ae