When Paihia man Gustavo Hernandez heard about a fundraiser called Move Your Butt, he took the message quite literally.
Hernandez is a member of Far North Latin Dance, a group of dance enthusiasts who meet once a week at Ōpua Hall and for whom butt-shaking comes naturally.
For the next month they will combine their favourite pastime with fundraising for Bowel Cancer New Zealand.
Hernandez specialises in Cuban salsa but the group dances ballroom, tango, rock 'n roll - whatever gets their butts on the dance floor.
Dancers usually pay $5 per session but he's encouraging them to dig a little deeper for the duration of the fundraiser. Any money left once the venue is paid for goes to the charity.
Spanish-born Hernandez, a plant researcher when he's not burning up the dance floor, said the aim of Move Your Butt was to encourage physical activity and raise awareness about the most common cancer affecting New Zealanders.
"It's not only the most common cancer, it is also the most preventable and the most curable - if it is detected early," he said.
"One of the biggest ways to prevent it is through exercise and physical activity. We're saying, 'come on, move your butt'. It's not only dancing, it's any physical activity - but in salsa we do move the butt a lot."
Pre-Covid-19, up to 50 people turned out for dance sessions. These days it was more like 20, though numbers were starting to pick up again.
Participants travelled from across the Bay of Islands and from as far away as Kaitaia, Rāwene and Whangārei for special events.
Hernandez said everyone was touched by cancer in some way.
"We are all connected, we all suffer from losing a friend or a relative, so this is a way to remember them. It is a nice way to give back to them."
Bowel Cancer NZ's annual Move Your Butt challenge officially kicks off in June. The proceeds help fund research and support for bowel cancer patients.
BOWEL CANCER FACTS*
■ Bowel cancer is the most common form of cancer in New Zealand with more than 3000 cases and 1200 deaths per year.
■ It's also one of the most treatable forms of cancer but it has to be caught early. So don't sit on your symptoms - see your doctor. The cure rate is 90 per cent in the early stages.
■ Symptoms include bleeding from the bottom or blood in the toilet after a bowel motion; a change of bowel motions over several weeks without a return to normal; pain in the abdomen; a lump or mass in the abdomen; tiredness and loss of weight for no obvious reason; and anaemia.
■ People with a family history of bowel cancer should be extra vigilant and discuss any concerns with their GP.
■ Regular exercise, quitting smoking, and a diet high in fruit, vegetables and fibre (but low in red meat and processed foods) reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer.
■ New Zealand's lowest bowel cancer rate is in Counties Manukau. The highest is in South Canterbury. The Northland rate is above the national average.
■ By ethnicity, Pākehā/Europeans have the highest bowel cancer rate. The rate for Māori is significantly lower and for Pasifika and Asian peoples lower still.
■ Northland joined the National Bowel Screening Programme late last year. The tests, which are conducted through the mail, will be offered every two years to people aged 60-74. The programme will offer free bowel screening to around 36,000 Northlanders, potentially detecting 44 cancers in the first year.
■ To find out more about the National Bowel Screening Programme visit timetoscreen.nz, free phone 0800 924 432 or talk to your GP or Maori Health Provider.
* Information from Bowel Cancer NZ.