Marketing Diseases

It’s October, and that means football players everywhere are wearing pink. Some in token gestures, others with shocking neon forearm and shin wraps. It’s part of an effort to end breast cancer.

Now, I’m all for that. Breasts should not get cancer. People with breasts should not get cancer. For the record, I’m against cancer. But, like General Motors, cancer sells under many names. Breast cancer is a killer, but lung cancer kills more women yet. Lung cancer also kills non-women. Lung cancer bites hard.

Maybe lung cancer doesn’t get the same attention because it’s perceived as a consequence of the afflicted’s choices. Hey, you chose to smoke, don’t ask me to feel bad for you. That’s tough to hear if you’re a non-smoker with lung cancer, but statistics are a bitch.

Because of the smoking connection, lung cancer is a tough sell. As a bunch we don’t pony up so well for diseases like that. Breast cancer is much more marketable, what with innocent women being brought down merely for having boobs. Most folks, myself included, are in favor of boobs, and are against women dying for having them.

But truly kicking one cancer’s ass will likely yield the keys to kicking the rest of them. Mad Cell Disease must have some common roots between manifestations. There are eleventy-bajillion different sorts of cancer, and it’s up to our generation to kick twelvety-bajillion tiny cancer nuts, and send them home to cry to their mommas. And then kick their mommas’ tiny cancer nuts.

We can fix this cancer thing, with the proper resolve. So forget about politics and don that pink ribbon with pride and vigor! Better yet, pony up a buck or two. It’s like voting, but your opinion actually matters. That lymph gland you save may be your own.

6 thoughts on “Marketing Diseases

  1. Some numbers to consider: Lung cancer accounts for approximately 27% of all cancer deaths annually. Of the approximately 220,000 people who are diagnosed with lung cancer every year, between 20,000 and 30,000 are people who have NEVER smoked. Let’s say 25K to make the math easier. Lung cancer has a five-year survival rate of about 16%. So roughly 19,000 people who have never had a cigarette are dying from lung cancer within 5 years of being diagnosed.

    Breast cancer has an estimated 200,000 cases diagnosed every year, with a wonderfully whopping 89% 5-year survival rate.

    22,000 deaths of people who did nothing but have breasts, and 19,000 deaths of people who did nothing but have lungs. I’m not saying I want breast cancer research to cease & desist at once, but even as someone with boobs, I’d like to see a bit more effort going in other directions, particularly in the area of fixing the perception issue that makes so many people immediately jump to the conclusion that no one gets lung cancer that isn’t their own fault.

  2. Call me a cynic, but I see the NFL-pink thing about marketing the NFL to the under-served female half of the population, not marketing the disease. If you want to talk about marketing the disease, there are many less-than-flattering takes on the Susan G Komen foundation. But if I went there, it would confirm me as a cynic.

    I could point out women aren’t the only gender that get breast cancer, or I could laud the NFL for taking a health stand on a periphery part of their business, their cheerleaders’ breasts. (But then I might careen down the path of why not raise money for restorative treatments for all the damage their players’ bodies take that can destroy their lives long after they’ve left the game.)

    So let’s leave it at this: because of the NFL pink thing, discussions such as this occur, which is a good thing. Awareness and donations take place.

    By the way, who are the Chargers playing this weekend?

    • I probably should have mentioned that much of the pink on the sidelines is Official NFL Stuff designed to be marketed to women. So, yeah, cancer awareness is not the only thing being promoted here.

    • Oh, and according to, San Diego plays Denver on Monday night. Or, as the advertisements will no doubt say, “Payton Manning and the Broncos.”

  3. A couple of years ago I read a really interesting article criticizing cancer research in its current form. I’m oversimplifying, and relying on a hazy memory, AND the article was well writen and did a good jobb explaining their sore point… but here is my interpretation:
    1. there is pure science at a foundational level, exploring the bleeding edge of cell function and cancer behavior.
    2. there is pure science at a foundational level exploring nascent and novel ways to interupt cancer development
    3. there are animal trials to convert the fundamental lab science of points 1 and 2 into applied science
    4. human trials resulting from animal trials.
    The Problem? According to the critic (and your opinion will vary) points 1 and 2 are prestigious and popular with bioscientists and NIH (and NSF) funders. Points 1 and 2 give good careers, reputations, publish histories, prestige, recognition, money, money and money.
    Apparently points 3 and 4 are drudgery, don’t result in prestige or famous careers, less money, and less paperrs published.
    Whythis is so I don’t know, nor can I prove. the article writer may be full of hogwash. But if s/he is right then explains why sooooo much money gets devoted to disease research with so little result.
    It seems like money from Komen foundation and folks like the NFL would most appropriately go to funding points 3 and 4 – especially human trials. If government money from NIH goes to pure science then it would make sense for charity money to go to points 3 and 4.
    To reiterate, I don’t know that it doesn’t. But it was a very interesting opinion piece and gave me pause. And could be an explanation. Again, YMWV.
    Morerecentlyl, I have heard thaat we need a philosophical sea change when it comes to fighting cancer. Philosphhically we treat it as an enemy like small pox that can be defeated if we just stumble over the right “discovery.” But now researchers are calling for a paradigm shift to think of cancer as more like poverty – a complex problem with no clear target, and no way, ever, for a discovery to happpen.
    Apologies fo awwful typing – I’m on laptop and these tiny keyboards are not made for “man hands.” Or at least mine.

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