“I used to chew nails and spit out battleships,” my grandfather, age 90, would tell me. It certainly seemed that way as a boy. The nails were prostate, colon, and skin cancer— and from each he would reemerge from the hospital victorious, afloat, and ready to set the guns on any challenger trying to take him down.

Often, it was as though his mustache was the source of his healing powers— for in twenty-three years I cannot remember a time he was without it. So when Movember rolled around this year, the first time my grandfather would not be here to celebrate his birthday with us, I was proud to bring a piece of him back by growing a mustache.

Movember — Changing the Face of Men’s Health

Unlike other facial hair growing months that inspire male camaraderie like Octobeard and Manuary, mustache-focused Movember finds its roots down under in Melbourne, Australia. The movement managed to raise $7.5 million dollars in 2010 for men’s health charities including Livestrong and the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

Since the mass appeal of mustaches has faded in America beyond the occasional excursion to the Mushroom Kingdom (itsa Mario!), revitalizing the upper lip tradition has made a great conversation-starter for an important issue.

In their lifetime, 1 in 2 men will be diagnosed with cancer compared to 1 in 3 women. With the odds at a coin toss, we should at the very least act where we have control.

The Questions You Mustache Must Ask — Your Action Plan

What checks should I be getting if I am in my 20s?

  • Blood Pressure (every 2 years or annually if high/low)
  • Cholesterol (every 5 years)
  • Dental Health (annually)
  • Eye Health (every 2 years if you have vision problems)
  • Immunizations (tetanus-diphtheria at age 19 and then every 10 years)
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
  • Skin Cancer (look for marks or changes on your skin)
  • Testicular cancer

In my 30s?

  • Everything from in my 20s
  • Heart Health (baseline EKG screening at age 30)

Movember offers an infographic with a complete set of recommendations including for your 40s and above.

My grandfather used to say, “You can do anything. If it is impossible, meh, it takes a little longer.” He quit smoking in the 1980s and he pedaled for exercise into his final year— think about what choices you can make to improve your years to come.

To support Greatist’s mustache team, head over to Movember.com.

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