MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — You may have noticed an increasing number of men growing mustaches lately, but what you might not know is that it’s for a good cause.

It’s called “Movember,” and the “M” stands for mustache. The annual campaign started in Australia eight years ago and has grown into an international movement. Each November, men across the world grow mustaches and collect pledges that support prostate cancer and other men’s health issues.

Twin Cities Movember Mustache Coach Judd Sampson said he started participating several years ago and the effort has grown significantly.

“This year we have 22 members on our team.  We do a fundraising happy hour, we have t-shirts that are made, mustaches that we sell. We’re going all out across the board to get it to as many people as possible,” said Sampson.

“Now, you can walk around with a mustache at any time and probably still get weird looks, but it’s not like it used to be,” said fellow participant Jonathan Wilson.

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Both Sampson and Wilson said they jumped on board for personal reasons after their loved ones battled male cancers.

“It’s a struggle every year.  It’s a roller coaster ride. You have to go through awkward stages to get the end result, but every day there’s 20 conversations about the mustache and the cause,” said Sampson.

While it started with a group of men, no one is excluded. Women are encouraged to join the “Mo Bros” as “Mo Sistas” and either grow their own body hair or sport a fake mustache.

Plus, participants said it’s an easy way to help raise money for the cause.

“You don’t have to go through the awkward stage of bringing up your organization and asking people to donate because anyone who knows you, if they don’t know you’re participating in ‘Movember’ will ask you what you’re doing with a mustache,” said Wilson.

And their upper lip hair has really made a difference.

“It’s something I look forward to doing every year now. Both because of the camaraderie and because of the tangible way the funds are helping the cause that the organization supports,” said Wilson.

But Sampson said the real purpose is building awareness.

“Whether we raise funds or not, as long as we can get the awareness and the talking moving, we’re winning.”

Since its inception in 2003, more than 1.1 million people have participated and more than $175 million has been raised for cancer research. You can find out more about Movember and how to get involved at the Movember web site.