100 Years of American Cancer Society



image credit: Good Search

In 1913, (One hundred years ago) a national organization dedicated to educate the public about cancer was formed. The organization was a small group of doctors and business leaders. The organization was called the American Society for the Control of Cancer. In 1945, the American Society for the Control of Cancer shortened its name to the American Cancer Society (ACS). The following year, it began its research program, with a $1 million donation from philanthropist Mary Lasker. Since 1946, ACS has raised and spent over $3.8 billion. American Cancer Society is the largest nongovernmental funder of cancer research. It has 900 local offices in every state.

One hundred years ago, a cancer diagnosis most certainly meant a death sentences. Today, there are 14 million cancer survivors in the United States. Five-year survival rates are up 20 percent from just the mid-1970’s. According to one report, five-year survival rates reached 68 percent from 2002 – 2008.

In an interview with ACS’s chief medical officer, Dr. Otis Brawley, he shares the victories of ACS, and cancer/medical areas still remaining in need of change. The first being medical coverage. “We know that the person who has health insurance is more likely to survive tan the person without insurance. There are a whole bunch of people with cancer who end up dying because of lack of adequate care.”

One of the ACS biggest victories is seen as their anti-smoking work. In 1965, 55 percent of men smoked, and 35 percent of women. Now, the percentages are 19.5 and 16.5 respectively. In California, it’s about 10 percent. In Missouri and Kentucky it’s about 30 percent. Brawley says, “California is an example of where we can go, and Missouri and Kentucky are examples of where we have come from.”

The biggest challenge? Brawley states, “It’s still smoking, now added with poor diet, poor physical fitness, and obesity. Without the obesity epidemic, we’d have a much bigger decline in the mortality rate over the last 20 years.”

How would American Cancer Society like people to mark the 100th birthday of the organization? I was impressed to see the request for people to take a look at their habits: Smoking, diet, exercise. Don’t blame the person who smokes, has a poor diet, or doesn’t exercise—but realize we’ve created an environment that supports poor habits. Forty years ago, the family had one car, walked to the local grocery store, and made meals rather than stopping by the drive-thru for a processed fast-food dinner.

Be the change you want to see—Ghandi

100 years of celebrating birthdays. That’s a lot of candles!


1-800-227-2345 (1-800-ACS-2345)


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