Sunday, 4 November 2012

So why is there less research into lung cancer compared to other cancers?


Here are the statistics from the USA - which is the biggest spender on basic cancer research:

Which of course begs the question as to why this is happening:

The stigma of smoking is largely to blame. Anti-tobacco campaigns have, in a way, done their job too well, leading many to see lung cancer as self-inflicted. That stigma keeps some families and patients from speaking out, while corporate donors stay away from the disease, and some scientists and policymakers question whether scarce research dollars should be devoted to a smokers’ illness.

And, of course, the cancer research bodies wouldn't dare take money from the tobacco industry which might actually be interested in funding research into lung cancer! And the situation is the same in the UK:

In 2010 lung cancer attracted 5.5% of funding spent on research into specific types of cancer (£11.8m / £213m), an increase from 3.9% (£6.1m / £158m) in 2006.

Lung cancers are responsible for over 20% of cancer deaths yet research into the disease has lagged behind research into other cancers and especially breast cancer and leukaemia. We can also note that spending on pancreatic, bowel and stomach cancers also lags behind.

The reason for this relative underspend on lung cancer is that the "researchers" strategy has but one club - stop people smoking. Which is a bit tough on the 10-20% of lung cancer patients whose cancer isn't caused by smoking! And - more importantly - for the past ten years the 'stop people smoking' strategy has ceased to work quite as effectively (if at all):

Since 2000 overall adult smoking rates had been declining by around 0.4% per annum.2 Between 2007 and 2009, overall smoking prevalence among adults in Great Britain remained the same at 21%, dropping to 20% in 2010 (21% of men and 20% of women).

It seems to me that - notwithstanding our opinion of smoking - the purpose of public health would be better served focusing on harm reduction, early diagnosis and better treatment than on what seems a pretty futile process of "denormalisation".

But I guess no-one's listening. They prefer just to ban stuff.


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