by Charles J. McDonald, MD, physician-in-chief, department of dermatology, RIH
I was honored to be the first Rhode Islander and the first dermatologist installed as the president of the American Cancer Society. During my one-year term, I worked to help the society meet its very ambitious goals of reducing cancer mortality rates by half and reducing the incidence of cancer by 25 percent by 2015, and to move the society in new directions.
One of those new directions is achieving equality by focusing greater emphasis on prostate cancer, childhood cancers, colon and rectal cancer and melanoma skin cancer. America spends $1.5 billion every year on AIDS, which kills 40,000 people annually; $875 million on breast cancer, which kills 40,000 annually; and $260 million on prostate cancer, which kills the same number of people as AIDS and breast cancer. If we are to decrease the death rate and the number of people diagnosed with cancer, we must concentrate our energy and resources more equitably, continuing to fight breast cancer but also conducting research on other kinds of cancer. The American Cancer Society, which spends $100 million a year on research, is proud of 30 recent Nobel prize winners in medicine who received grants given to them as junior investigators. We will continue to provide seed money, to lead the way in the important work of cancer research.
We also must realize that we work best when we work with organizations that have similar goals. An example of what can be accomplished by a coalition of organizations is the recent progress made in advocacy for prostate cancer. This cancer kills African-American males at 2 times the rate of white males. Last year, the National Prostate Cancer Coalition, National Cancer Institute, Intercultural Cancer Council, NAACP and the American Cancer Society joined with 100 Black Men of America to educate the African-American community about this disease. Just a year later, most major cities offer prostate cancer screening, education and research.
There is no magic wand that will cure all cancers, but I'm confident that by broadening our research and by building coalitions, we'll continue to make significant progress. In the fight against cancer, as in all of life's challenges, it's true that when people work together, putting forth their best effort, they can accomplish great things.