It’s Movember! Grow a mo and raise awareness of cancer.

Serendipitously timed, Grade 11 are looking at cell division as some of the male teachers are growing their mo’s for Movember:

“Men sporting Movember moustaches, known as Mo Bros, become walking, talking billboards for the 30 days of November* and through their actions and words raise awareness by prompting private and public conversation around the often ignored issue of men’s health.”

From the MoVember website.

*Actually, we’re doing Nov 10th – Dec 10th, due to the holiday and being a bit slow on the uptake.

So what’s it got to do with Biology?

Well, tumours – such as prostate and testicular cancer in men; breast, uterine, cervical and ovarian cancer in women; and cancer of everything else in everyone else – are simply the result of uncontrolled cell division. Through apoptosis (programmed cell death) or damage (necrosis), cells are destroyed. These need to be replaced with other cells. As our cells are eukaryotic, they need to go through mitosis to ensure that complete copies of all the chromosomes make it into both daughter cells.

As with other cell processes, this is controlled by genes and, importantly, terminated when the cells have grown appropriately. If there is a mutation or problem with a tumour-suppressor gene, such as TP53, the process of cell division is not stopped and the cells grow out of control. This is a tumour. Alternatively, mutations can affect other genes (oncogenes), which encourage further growth.

Click here for a good 11-minute documentary on cancer development, from CancerQuest.

Tumours can start out benign – growths of cells that are not harmful. If these cells become malignant and invade other cells and damage tissues, this is known as cancer. Damage to other cells and tissues leads to illness and can be fatal if not treated early. As tumours grow, they can recruit blood vessels – called angiogenesis. Now you run the risk of metastasis – cells from the tumour breaking off, flowing through the blood and starting a new aggressive tumour in a different part of the body.

Environmental factors can encourage mutations in key cell-cycle-controlling genes. We all know, for example, that smoking can cause lung cancer, UV radiation can lead to skin cancer and the HPV virus can cause cervical cancer.

So why all the fuss about Movember?

Simply, men’s cancers receive less media attention and men tend to be less willing to talk openly about their health problems (unless, of course, they’re trying to get sympathy with a case of man-flu). As guys tend to put off going to the doctor and generally live a lifestyle that is higher-risk for cancer (high fat, high meat, alcohol, smoking, lack of exercise…), tumours can go unnoticed. Men are less likely to survive a cancer diagnosis than their more health-conscious lady friends.

Through cultivating the moustache, we can start conversations about these issues, raise money for education, prevention, research and treatment and promote anti-cancer behaviours:

  1. Healthy lifestyle choices and awareness of risk
  2. Self-checking and regular screening for at-risk groups
  3. Early diagnosis of and treatment for tumours, should they arise (animation)

So get mo-tivated and join the mo-alition of the willing. Take a mo-ment to think about cell division. And mo-an at the men in your life to make healthy choices. Ladies too can get involved – by becoming Mo-Sistas and also raising awareness. The BIS Team are called the BIS Upper Lips!

In the video above, he talks about how genome mapping can lead to giving an indicator of risk to men. Great technology, based on the Human Genome Project (link to 4.4 Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology).

For the class resources on 2.5 Cell Division, click here. Interestingly, and obviously, hair growth itself is a product of cell division. Something to think about as you grow the mo, yo.

About Stephen

Director of Learning & MYP Coordinator at Canadian Academy, Kobe, Japan. Formerly MYP HS Science & IBDP Bio teacher and missing it terribly. Twitterist (@sjtylr), dad and bloggerer.

Posted on November 12, 2010, in CAS, DNA, Fun, Silly and Funny, Health and Social Issues, Medical, Mitosis & The Cell Cycle, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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