Misleading Movember

It’s Movember, and I’ve been getting increasingly annoyed each time I see this much shared tweet:

If you’re doing Movember and you haven’t got your prostate checked, you’re missing the point.

Because for the vast majority of men participating in Movember, “getting their prostate checked” would be a waste of time and money. And that’s a viewpoint now supported by this letter to the BMJ from a GP in Glasgow, which asks why on earth men under 50 are being encouraged to “get their prostate checked”.

In the UK, the NHS screening programme for prostate cancer only begins when the patient is 50 years old. This is because prostate cancer is strongly linked to age and there is very limited value in testing for it below the age of fifty. (I’m talking about the general population here – obviously, having a family history or symptoms of the disease are reason enough to get tested at any age.)

Movember is a global campaign that asks men to grow moustaches in the 11th month of the year, “with the aim of raising vital funds and awareness of men’s health issues.”

Which is great. But, as I have pointed out earlier this week, rather raise awareness in a helpful and accurate manner. That tweet at the top is simply populist, retweetable nonsense. Now if it were about checking for testicular cancer, that would be far more valuable for the age group generally involved with the whole Movember thing.

Movember does not just seek to raise money but also to “significantly increase the understanding of the health risks that men face and will encourage men to act upon on that increased understanding.” To do this, men need fair and accurate information. Movember’s emphasis on screening tests, its recommendation of a frequency of screening that is not based on evidence, and its failure to provide good supporting information place well intentioned men in unhelpful conflict with their doctors.

Correct. (Emphasis by me)

So I’m going to give you a different version of that tweet at the top:

If you’re dispensing advice about men’s health and it’s not accurate, you’re not helping. http://u3.co.za/19n #Movember

There. Go retweet that.

5 thoughts on “Misleading Movember

  1. How does the money-raising part work? That’s what’s always bothered me about it. I don’t see how growing the ‘tash raises money for the research, unless you’re being sponsored to grow it. Also, when I see these mos I’m not thinking ‘Wow, I’m suddenly so much more aware of prostate cancer’ I’m generally thinking ‘hope there’s no bogies caught in there..’
    not that I’m saying it’s not a worthy cause just that I really don’t get how the awareness and, more importantly, the money is raised by doing this

  2. Ronnie > Yes, the money is a sponsorship thing. 22 million quid last year in the UK alone. So it works.
    And the awareness? Well, we wouldn’t be talking about prostate cancer here if it wasn’t for Movember. Just sad that we’re talking about the wrong thing.

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