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Misleading Ad...article (ALCASE)

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http://www.acsh.org/factsfears/newsID.5 ... detail.asp

May 10, 2005

Misleading Advertisement about Lung Cancer

By Rivka Weiser

A prominently placed advertisement by the Lung Cancer Alliance in yesterday's New York Times conveys the important message that lung cancer, which kills more people than many other forms of cancer combined, is worthy of more attention and research than it currently receives. Unfortunately, however, the well-intentioned advertisement is also misleading and has disturbing implications.

The ad features a photograph of a lung cancer patient who has never smoked ("This lung cancer patient can't stop smoking. Because she never started."), and states, "There's no question that millions of lung cancer patients have died because of smoking. But it's also true that over 50 percent of people now being diagnosed with lung cancer are non-smokers or former smokers." However, it is extremely misleading to lump the two groups together by saying that "over 50 percent" of lung cancer cases are diagnosed in non-smokers and former smokers. In fact, since approximately 90% of lung cancer cases are due to smoking, the majority of those in this "over 50 percent" group are former smokers, as opposed to non-smokers. Further, using the word "but" at the beginning of the second sentence implies that lung cancer diagnosed in former smokers is not actually also due to smoking, ignoring the fact that an elevated lung cancer risk lingers in former smokers long after they quit smoking.

The ad continues: "In spite of this, the stigma of smoking is still so great that lung cancer is underfunded, under-researched, and generally ignored by Congress." It then discusses the toll of lung cancer, and concludes, "It's time to treat lung cancer research with the same urgency that we bring to every other major cancer. Because the most lethal cancer in the country can no longer be hidden behind a smoke screen."

It is odd that the advertisement focuses on the lung cancer cases supposedly unrelated to smoking as the reason that lung cancer should receive further attention and research. Even if all cases of lung cancer were due to smoking, would that make the disease and the more than 160,000 deaths it causes annually in America not as worthy of further attention, research, and resources devoted to its prevention and treatment? The line of reasoning in the ad seems to reinforce the unfortunate stigma on smokers who develop lung cancer as being solely personally responsible for their own demise, their fates somehow less worthy of attention than those of non-smokers or those who were able to overcome their addiction to tobacco.

While lung cancer in non-smokers is disturbing and worthy of more research, it is not the primary reason for the urgency for devoting more attention and resources towards preventing and treating lung cancer. The fact that lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer death in America, and that we know which one specific behavior causes the large majority of its cases, should be enough of an impetus for us to focus more on lung cancer as the urgent public health issue that it is.

Rivka Weiser is a research intern at the American Council on Science and Health.

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Cool, can I be first with a snap judgment?

I know that we have discussed on the board taking the smoking out of the issue - seems to me this article just puts 'er right back in there.

"There's no question that millions of lung cancer patients have died because of smoking. But it's also true that over 50 percent of people now being diagnosed with lung cancer are non-smokers or former smokers." However, it is extremely misleading to lump the two groups together by saying that "over 50 percent" of lung cancer cases are diagnosed in non-smokers and former smokers. In fact, since approximately 90% of lung cancer cases are due to smoking, the majority of those in this "over 50 percent" group are former smokers, as opposed to non-smokers.

If what I remember is correct, non-smokers make up ~12% of the sum of lung cancer cases per year and the number is growing. That would be close to 25% of the non-smoker/ex-smoker group, a minority, for sure, but not a minute amount.

I do agree that no matter what, more research, funding, etc. are needed, but do not agree with someone writing an editorial pretending to be a statistician or scientist. I have heard on the board that doctors claim small-cell is directly attributed to smoking - although my surgeon couldn't tell me if I had SC or NSC until after the biopsy and I've never smoked...

Many "blue collar" jobs present exposure issues to environmental agents that are known carcinogens. I have noticed that many of the craftsmen that I know are smokers and red blooded Americans who kick back with a cold beer on the weekends. I do not understand why there isn't research on their OTHER exposure instead of just assuming it's the smoking that has caused their cancer. Many dusts can lead to pulmonary issues such as asthma and emphysema. Lead dust, coal dust, silica, friable asbestos (asbestos/mesothelioma), radon, mercury and lead in drinking water.. So MANY environmental factors to choose from, yet once that "Smoker/former smoker" box has been checked, no one looks at anything else.

I think smoking should be taken out of the equation - not just for the non-smokers, but for the smokers, as well.

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Yep, should not matter how one gets lung cancer, nobody deserves it. I would like to see lung cancer get the funding, the public awareness/education just like any other disease. Was not surprised I was diagnosed with lung cancer. I knew one could get it even if they never smoked. Was more surprised of where lung cancer is in America/World and the late diagnosis due to no testing like other cancers when I first started researching lung cancer. Just would like to see everyone get a fair shake. Don't understand why it is so under funded, why the stigma and why it is so misunderstood...

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Read the article and read the response.

I'm not finished with my research on the article, the responders, and the Organization itself. Here's a little "light reading" on ACSH and it's founder:



Before reaching a conclusion I like to know what informs someone's thinking....

Fay A.

PS Becky and Katie, I agree with you. Most people do not know that never smokers develop Lung Cancer, and debating the issues is just another delaying tactic.

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I read an article today on the ASCO website that talked about a new link between smoking and exposure to wood dust. It said that people who expose themselves to wood dust and smoke have something like 180 percent chance of getting lung cancer. They also gave percentages of those who don't smoke which were very, very high. I guess that is an indication that there are other reasons for lung cancer BESIDES SMOKING .I wish the world would know this.


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You want to know why Lung Cancer is viewed in the way it is today? I can tell you why I believe this happened. Back in the early 1990s the American Cancer Society took the very public stance that they were not recommending that Chest X-rays be done on a regular basis to screen for Lung Cancer because it wasn't effective in increasing long term survival rates. And you know what? That was probably true. (Chest X-rays are not as good as CT scans for detecting early stage Lung Cancers).

But.....that isn't all the ACS did. They also adopted the public position that Lung Cancer was an entirely avoidable disease. And that they didn't see the point in expending resources towards a disease that people were bringing upon themselves. It was the American Cancer Society that very publicly took the position that society as a whole should actively condemn the smoker for his/her habit, and that those who have Lung Cancer have it because of Tobacco Smoke exposure. They basically gave "permission" to society to treat those with Lung Cancer like modern day lepers.

They kept up with this attitude on the ACS web site up until a few years ago. It was interesting to me at the time that the ACS web site made it a specific point to tell women diagnosed with cervical cancer that it wasn't their fault for developing cervical cancer, but for woman who developed Lung Cancer it was a completely different story.

I believe that the ACS actually removed the inflammatory language under the Lung Cancer section of their web site right around the time that public health officials finally admitted that the dust from the September 11th, 2001 Terrorist Attacks was much more dangerous than they had admitted previously. (Think about it: A huge population given a single incident, massive exposure to aerosolized concrete, asbestos, metals of all sorts, glass, plastics, and a million other substances, many of which are known carcinogens.)

I was paying close attention to what the American Cancer Society was doing back when it first started what I think of as it's "Anti Lung Cancer Patient Campaign" because my mother had recently died from Lung Cancer. And I was furious that the ACS had profited from my Mother's death, my Aunt's death, my Uncles' deaths, (all from Lung Cancer) by way of donations made in memory of my loved ones' names. I felt they had taken the money under false pretenses.

So, that's my opinion on how those of us with Lung Cancer became Society's "Whipping Post".

Do you know how many times I've read quotes from Physicians (People who really SHOULD know better) that state something along the lines of "...Not all Lung Cancer Patients were smokers, but ALL Smokers will be Lung Cancer Patients...".

Think about it....and let's try to put our collective heads together to come up with ways to direct resources to a cure for all cancers...including ours.

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As usual, Fay has said it very well.

I must say that the ACSH article, biased as the organization is, makes one good point. Whether one smoked in the remote past, smoked a cigarette five minutes ago, or never caught a single whiff of tobacco smoke is not the issue. The issue is that people are suffering and we have made very little progress in helping them.

I do not agree that we are doing enough about tobacco avoidance and cessation. We still subsidize tobacco growers. We still rely upon the initiative of the smoker to quit, instead of intervening to improve motivation.

There is much more that our health care system could do, in my opinion, to alter lifestyle/personal influences in many diseases, and smoking is one of those influences. We do not support the kind of monitoring, ongoing support, coaching and education that is required to facilitate changes in health habits. If you can't cure it with a prescription, or cut it out with a scalpel, it doesn't count.

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Well said, Fay. Yes not being tested at all certainly adds to the problem of catching it early, as well as public awareness/education. I myself would not blame someone for getting lung cancer regardless how one gets it any more then I would blame someone for drug/alcohol/000/food/aids etc and I get offended when someone does that as well. We are all human. Can’t say I always agree with the ACS either. The fact that we live in an industrial nation like ours, people would still get lung cancer even if not one single person smoked, as well as hereditary playing a factor. It’s like that bad intersection; unfortunately nothing gets done until enough people die… No matter what the disease or illness there should be (regardless of who/what/when/how/why) funding, no one disease or illness should be left out. If I had a dollar for every time someone said something silly to me about lung cancer I could pay off this country’s deficit, so I can relate to what you are saying about silly comments. I send hundreds of e-mails to TV, radio, print media, our representative's and could not count on one hand the responses I received back (I have a better chance of dating a playboy bunny then hearing from anyone) and they were the typical “yada yadaâ€

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