Thursday, August 16, 2012
Will we ever cure cancer as the Susan Komen organization promises?
I was turned on to this question by the recent turmoil at the Susan G Komen For the Cure organization. Very little frosts me more than falsely promising hope. And the Komen organization seems to be promising this if only they collect enough money by selling pink ribbons and promoting as their website says, “The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® Series, the world’s largest and most successful education and fundraising event for breast cancer ever created”. Now Susan Komen does good stuff. They promote early detection and when I volunteered at a free clinic, provided funding for breast cancer screening, something I think they do in many communities. They also sponsor research and fellowships and have an admirable record of spending most of what they take in on their programs. This is distinct from my former organization, the American Cancer Society, which rates pretty low in this regard, spending a huge amount on fund raising. But unlike Susan Komen, the ACS just provides the facts without promises of a cure. So is the Komen group promising more than they can deliver? They certainly are. Will we ever “cure” cancer? I doubt it. Look at the numbers. What is the biggest risk factor for developing cancer? Living. The longer you live, the more likely it is you will develop cancer. For example the cancer rate is ten times higher in 80 year olds than in 40 year olds. Why is this? Many explanation, few facts. Our cells age and don’t work well. How about the early detection? It helps a little, but most of the studies show that mammography lowers the risk of dying from breast cancer by 25 percent, if you are over 50. Younger than that? Doctors aren’t sure. It may help a little or not at all. So all those pink ribbons promising cure and little to show for it – as far as cures go. But it raises lots of money and that is the problem. Perhaps it sucks the air out of other organization like the ACS, which really is trying to provide meaningful help for all patients and promote prevention with its research. There is only so much money to give and focusing on one cancer is not the answer, especially when false hopes are raised.