The Pink Panthers support group will this Thursday look at how an organic lifestyle could be a key weapon in the battle against a range of cancers as well as other health issues such as male infertility, writes Kevin Mullan.
The group, which celebrates its fifth birthday this month, is throwing its doors open for what promises to be a fun and educational showcase this Men’s Health Week, which has as its theme ‘One Small Step for Man, One Giant Leap for Men’s Health.’
The event kicks off at 6 p.m. in the Bishop Street Community Centre and aims to be both an enlightening and luxurious experience for those who come along.
As well as educating people about how chemicals in some everyday cosmetic and personal hygiene products can disrupt your hormones and play havoc with your endocrinal system, it will also be an opportunity for men to try out some natural alternatives for themselves.
Michelle McLaren, a development worker with the panthers’ sister organisation, the Pink Ladies, explained that the group normally runs a routine pop-up clinic every Men’s Health Week.
“Every year we have the Pink Panthers pit-stop, opening it up to all men throughout the city so that they can come in and get a free health check and speak to Margaret Cunningham, our facilitator, and find out a wee bit more about the group, what it would be like to become a member or a volunteer for the group.”
This year the Pink Panthers want to sharpen the focus somewhat and examine how looking after your health on a holistic basis could be hugely beneficial, even life-saving.
Michelle said the recent appointment of Jacqui Loughrey as the Pink Ladies’ new education and prevention officer, means the scope of this year’s event has been broadened.
“We have expanded on the event this year and to reach as many men as possible we have changed it to the evening time so we have the whole night designed around looking at men’s health holistically.
“For me, I’ll be looking at the massages and the practical help and support you can get in here. I’ll be looking at their cholesterol, their diet, and we’ll have facilitators and a range of practitioners here on the night.”
During the course of the evening the aforesaid education officer, Jacqui, will look at how hormone-disrupting chemicals contained in some off-the-shelf colognes and perfumes may not only be increasing the risk of cancer but also putting men at a higher risk of becoming infertile.
Ironically, synthetically produced versions of musk - a substance naturally secreted by various species of deer and rat and used in perfumery for centuries - are believed to be partly responsible for Western Europe’s plummetting sperm count rates.
Jacqui’s concerns about the effect of the mostly manmade endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are shared by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which says they have been suspected of being associated with altered reproductive function in males and females; increased incidence of breast cancer, abnormal growth patterns and neurodevelopmental delays in children, as well as changes in immune function.
“There’s a decline in male reproductive health and that’s something we will be talking about and how chemicals affect that,” explained Jacqui.
“More men are getting testicular cancer and these studies are suggesting that male infertility is linked to these EDCs and it’s something that men won’t even consider because they’ll just go for what’s on the shelf in terms of deodorants, shaving creams and stuff like that. Either the big brands or the cheapest ones.
“So men’s reproductive health is deterioriating and chemicals are being looked at.”
Thus the Pink Panthers have teamed up with Alyson Spence, a therapist and local representative of a German organic products firm, who will be coming along on the night to provide massage, facials and reflexology, and suggesting some alternative options. If any further incentive to come along there will be a limited number of goody bags with up to £40 worth of shaving cream and other products, including a shaving brush made from pure badger hair, to start men on their own organic voyages of discovery.
“Part of my job is to show them affordable alternatives. There are brands that I’m looking at which don’t have these chemicals in them,” said Jacqui.
“The main problem with men is that they use a lot of products that contain musk and musk galaxolide [a synthetic version of the chemical] that has been linked to EDCs and is used in a lot of chemicals. This one is linked to male infertility and the decline in the quality of men’s sperm, which has been dropping over the past 30 years and it’s happening too fast to be a genetic factor. It’s believed there’s a chemical factor and that it’s these EDCs.”
Michelle said raising awareness of these issues is important due to men’s generally complacent attitude towards their own health.
This laissez-faire attitude is slowly diminishing, however, in no small part thanks to the sterling efforts of the panthers.
“Five years ago the Pink Panthers launched during Men’s Health Week. Nine men came along. There are over 24 now with people affected directly or indirectly with a range of different cancers.”
Michelle expects the snowball effect to continue and urged anyone with an hour or two to spare to come along on Thursday.
“You’ll get advice around making posiitve lifestyle choices, taking a wee bit of control, alleviating fears and we’ll be signposting people in the right direction.
“Not all men like holistic therapies but this is about showing that these are technical ways of bringing down stress levels, which is a major factor for people who have been diagnosed with cancer or even for someone looking after somebody with cancer.
“You really want stress to be as low as possible and holistic therapies are a good way of achieving that.”
Men continue to be a difficult demographic to reach, however, admits Michelle.
“Men are a hard target audience but if one man comes out of Thursday night and starts speaking to somebody else that is going to start a ripple effect. It’s at six o’clock at night. You’ve had your dinner why not take a scoot in. It’s five minutes of your time but you never know what kind of informaiton you could get that could potentially change your life. Call in passing to the pub. We’re not saying don’t go for that pint but take five minutes on the way. No-one is going to take care of your health only you.”