Our Opinion: Urge men in your life to get checkups and cancer screenings

During the month just ended, you might have overheard joking and jawing about facial hair.

Normally clean-shaven guys, including some employed at the Times Leader, sprouted stubble in November, then began sporting beards. Others nurtured only their lip hair, styling and spinning it into elaborate mustaches.

Each fuzzy face, beyond drawing double-takes from family members, friends and acquaintances, was intended to serve as bulletin board – driving home a few deadly serious messages. Men, don’t take your health for granted. Visit your doctor yearly for a checkup. (You do have a doctor, right?) Don’t avoid cancer screenings (even the uncomfortable ones). Cut, or at least cut down on, the smoking. Exercise regularly. And if you’re hurting, physically or emotionally, ask for help.

Those aren’t topics that members of the testosterone-rich gender typically gravitate to while at deer camp or on the golf course. Or anyplace else. Hence, the emergence of two similar but separate awareness-raising campaigns called No-Shave November and Movember. The former encourages cancer prevention among males. The latter hits four focal points: prostate cancer, testicular cancer, poor mental health and physical inactivity.

Both rely on the good-natured banter spurred by the sudden appearance of a guy’s facial hair. Is that a fake beard? What’s with the muskrat on your face? You look like Abe Lincoln (or Captain Morgan or some other well-known dude with a distinctly hairy visage).

After the silliness, the participant offers an explanation.

It’s for a good cause. Have you been taking care of yourself?

Of course, the life-enhancing notion behind No-Shave November shouldn’t be confined to a single calendar month.

Each day, an estimated 109 new cancer cases will emerge among Pennsylvania males and 40 deaths will be attributed to the disease, according to recent projections from the state Department of Health. The most common cancer diagnosis for them: prostate cancer. Still the most fatal types: lung and bronchus cancer.

In Northeastern Pennsylvania, meanwhile, researchers continue to look for the reason(s) why this region’s residents – both men and women – experience a higher rate of colorectal cancer. Diet? Sedentary lifestyles? Something else?

Talk to the important man, or men, in your life about healthy living. Be direct. If dad, for instance, is age 50 or above, ask if he’s had a colonoscopy. If not, urge him to schedule it soon. The discussion, like the procedure, might be unsettling for a while.

Ditto for the itchiness of a budding beard on a normally bare face.

But some momentary discomfort sure beats the prospect of keeping silent about men’s health matters and later watching someone whom you admire fall ill and suffer. Speak up today. The conversation could save a life.