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Department Fights Prostate Cancer With Facial Hair

MILFORD, Conn. -- It started as a teasing dare between two men. Now, more than 30 Milford police officers call themselves The Mustache Team.

No, it's not some club of cops who pine for the 1970s. The purpose for their facial hair is more than a fashion statement.

In fact, most of the men wouldn't choose the look for that reason.
"It's like, 'Hey, what's that on your face,"' joked Officer Javier Salas, one of the effort's organizers.

"They look kind of ridiculous," said Officer Ethan Mitkowski, the other organizer, adding that the effect is particularly strong when a bunch of mustachioed men in uniform gather in the same spot. "People do stare. People have asked, 'Does every Milford cop have a mustache?"'

But the officers said their mustaches of various shapes and sizes have been great conversation starters about men's health, and have helped the team raise about $850 so far for the Prostate Cancer Foundation through the international "Movember" campaign held each November.

Named for the Aussie slang for mustache, mo, the campaign challenge is to "change the face of men's health." Participating men register cleanshaven and grow a "mo" in a light-hearted effort to raise awareness about prostate cancer, the top men's health issue in America, and money for the foundation.

Salas said because most city police officers know someone affected by the disease, they felt Movember was a worthy cause.

He and Mitkowski said officers of many ranks joined the campaign and others, like Chief Keith Mello, didn't grow mos, but were nonetheless supportive.

The department's dress code doesn't allow beards.

According to the foundation, a man is 35 percent more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer, the most common non-skin cancer in the country, than a woman is to be diagnosed with breast cancer.

One in six men is affected by it, more than 186,000 will be diagnosed with it this year, and more than 28,000 will die from it, the foundation reports.

The cure rate for prostate cancer detected in its early stages is very high -- nearly all men diagnosed early will be disease-free after five years - but the Movember Web site says many men don't get regular checkups because they don't feel it's manly or "tough" to do so.
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