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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

The British Open Golf Tournament and Breast Cancer Illustrate the Need to Demand Better at the UN Su

Cancer made its mark this weekend at a world-stage golf tournament, and the facts illustrate why people can and should demand better on cancer from our national and world leaders.  Set out below are some facts and links to places you can easily speak out in advance of  a September, 2011 summit of world leaders gathered to address diseases such as cancer.

The scene was a water-side links course  as golf crowned a new British Open champion.  Both the winner and the runner-up illustrate the widespread scope of cancer. The tournament winner was  42 year old Darren Clark. The love of his life, his wife, Heather, was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 35, and died of breast cancer at age 39, as described here by Wikipedia. Second place went to Phil Mickelson. The love of his life,  Amy, was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 37, as described here.

Is this an odd coincidence? Only sort of. Most of all it is a concrete example of the prevalence of cancer in general, and of breast cancer in particular.  According to the American Cancer Society’s collection of 2010 data, 1 in 3 women will develop cancer. And,  breast cancer in particular strikes so often, as highlighted by the Lynn Sage Foundation and the Susan Komen Foundation. According to this page of the Komen website:

“In 2011, it is estimated that among U.S. women [31]:

  1. There will be 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer (includes new cases of primary breast cancer among survivors, but not recurrence of original breast cancer among survivors).

  2. There will be 57,650 new cases of in situ breast cancer (includes ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS), of those, about 85 percent were DCIS). DCIS is a non-invasive breast cancer and LCIS is a risk factor that increases the risk of invasive breast cancer. Learn more about DCIS and breast cancer risk. Learn more about LCIS and breast cancer risk.

  3. There will be 39,520 breast cancer deaths.

The massive waves of cancers has been called “a public health emergency in slow motion,” and it calls for many actions. One cost-free action you can take is to sign this online petition to demand better from world leaders. The petition will be presented at the upcoming UN Summit on NCDs – non-communicable diseases. The petition is a project of Lance Armstrong’s LiveStrong.

The summit meeting is this September at UN headquarters in NY. The American Society of Clinical Oncologists and other global groups pf physicians  are emphatic that this is a major opportunity to set policy because the meeting wil be attended by numerous  national leaders from around the globe. There is hope that President and/or Mrs. Obama will attend.

The summit also is the kind of effort supported by Nobel Prize winner Dr. Harold Varmus, who heads up our National Cancer Institue and won the Nobel Prize (with Michael Bishop) for ground breaking cancer research. He’s also savvy and oustpoken, and wrote this great book  (The Art and Politics of Science) after he ran the National Institutes of Health during the Clinton Administration. He’s also smart enough to say that the world cannot afford the cost of disease, and we need to solve the problems now for that reason alone.

Here’s what ASCO had to say; the statement is online here:

CHICAGO – Today at a press briefing, leaders from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), and the American Cancer Society (ACS) announced new efforts to respond to the cancer epidemic occurring in low- and middle-income countries, and called on President Obama and other world leaders to take action at the upcoming United Nations (UN) High-level Meeting on Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs), taking place in New York in September.

The briefing took place at the 47th ASCO Annual Meeting in Chicago, where cancer doctors from around the world presented and discussed advances in the field that translate into improved care. Panelists provided first-hand perspective on the global state of cancer care, with a focus on the growing cancer burden in low- and middle-income countries, which often have severe shortages of oncologists and very limited access to state-of-the-art cancer treatments, screening services, and palliative care.

“Together, ASCO, UICC, and ACS represent the strength of 30,000 oncology professionals, 460 organizations, and 3 million volunteers around the world who are leading the way to address the cancer crisis,” said ASCO CEO Allen S. Lichter, MD. “The UN Meeting in September presents a monumental opportunity to put cancer on the global agenda.  We urge world leaders to help save and improve the lives of millions of people living with cancer or at risk for the disease.”  The Top Global Killers: Cancer and Other NCDs  Each year, an estimated 7.6 million people die from cancer – more than from HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. It is estimated that the incidence of cancer will continue to increase during the next decade, from 12.7 million annual cases in 2008 to more than 20 million by 2030, with the majority of new cases occurring in low- and middle-income countries. Cancer and other NCDs, such as diabetes and heart disease, account for a combined 36 million deaths each year, or an estimated 63 percent of all annual deaths worldwide, according to a recent report from the World Health Organization. These global statistics are staggering and represent what UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has called “a public health emergency in slow motion.”

The Opportunity: A UN Summit on NCDs In September, world leaders will convene in New York for the UN summit, which will focus on the global threat of cancer and other NCDs. This is only the second time in its 65 years that the UN has held such a high-level meeting to address a health topic. In 2001, a UN General Assembly Special Session on the global AIDS crisis led to an unprecedented international response to HIV/AIDS and ultimately resulted in the creation of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

This morning, ASCO delivered to the White House a letter, signed by major U.S. medical societies representing about 300,000 doctors, nurses and other health care professionals, calling on President Obama to personally attend the UN High-level Meeting on NCDs.

In addition, to help shape the upcoming summit, the NCD Alliance, a coalition of four international federations including UICC, has issued a Proposed Outcomes Document that outlines the goals and targets for world leaders to agree upon at the conclusion of the summit. Today, ASCO formally endorsed the proposed outcomes, which will play a key role in deliberations at the UN summit.

A Call to Action for World Leaders and Policymakers At the press briefing, ASCO, UICC, and ACS voiced their call to action for policymakers of all countries leading up to the UN meeting. The three organizations are actively working to ensure the UN meeting’s success by communicating with the Obama Administration, engaging their memberships in letter writing to ensure attendance of other world leaders, and attending the UN’s informal civil society hearing on NCDs on June 16, where they will have the opportunity to make the cancer community’s voice heard at the UN.

The cancer community is also bringing attention to this issue through the World Cancer Declaration, which outlines 11 targets to be achieved by 2020, including a substantial decline in global tobacco consumption, obesity, and alcohol intake; improved access to care; universal vaccination programs for hepatitis B and human papilloma virus (HPV) to prevent liver and cervical cancer; and increased training opportunities for health care workers on different aspects of cancer control. Approximately 230,000 people have signed the Declaration to date, contributing to reaching the goal of 1 million signatures by September.

“Everyone knows someone that has been touched by cancer, so we urge individuals to take action and sign the declaration,” said Eduardo L. Cazap, MD, PhD, UICC President and ASCO Board member. “In doing so, you are helping bring the cancer crisis to the attention of government leaders who can implement policy changes that will reduce the global cancer burden for future generations around the world.”

In addition, ACS is organizing “We Can, We Should, We Will Conquer Cancer,” a cancer survivor-led event at the United Nations in New York City taking place June 18-20, at which cancer advocates from around the world will share their stories with their UN ambassadors and demand that the UN make NCDs a global priority.

“Cancer affects people from all walks of life, and from every corner of the globe,” said John R. Seffin, PhD, ACS Chief Executive Officer. “Only together can we ensure cancer and other NCDs are recognized as an imminent health challenge, and are seriously addressed as a development, health, and equity issue.”

Continued Commitment in The Global Campaign Demonstrating its own commitment in the global campaign against cancer, ASCO is undertaking several efforts to improve care globally, and announced today that it is expanding the Society’s International Cancer Corps (ICC) program to Vietnam and Ethiopia, which until recently had only one oncologist serving a nation of 80 million people. Through the program, ASCO member physicians volunteer to provide training on cancer care to medical staff and students in developing countries.  The Society plans to extend the reach of the program further to other low-income countries where human resources training in cancer care can have a real and meaningful impact on millions of lives.

In addition, ASCO announced it is expanding training courses and workshops that teach cancer management to doctors, nurses, and other health care workers in low- and middle-income countries. This past year, the Society launched a new Train the Trainer program to create a cadre of trainers in cancer management. Twelve South American trainers completed the program in its first year, helping to more rapidly scale up the country’s workforce training.

Looking Toward the Future With the combined efforts of ASCO, UICC, ACS and other cancer organizations around the world, progress continues to be made in combating this global health crisis. However, the leaders at today’s briefing and others in the cancer community acknowledge that more can be done. As the UN meeting approaches this September, there are many opportunities for individuals and organizations to get involved and help change the future of people living with cancer. For more information and to sign the World Cancer Declaration, visit:

Resources to Learn More:

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About the American Society of Clinical Oncology The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) is the world’s leading professional organization representing physicians who care for people with cancer. With more than 30,000 members, ASCO is committed to improving cancer care through scientific meetings, educational programs and peer-reviewed journals. For ASCO information and resources, visit Patient-oriented cancer information is available at

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