Ithaca Blog

Friday, August 31, 2007

Major Cause of Cancer Deaths: No Health Insurance

The American Cancer Society will spend its entire advertising budget this year on a campaign citing lack of health insurance, and of access to health care, as a leading cause of cancer deaths.

John Seffrin, chief executive of the society, said in an interview, "I believe, if we don't fix the health care system, that lack of access will be a bigger cancer killer than tobacco."

Despite advances in prevention and treatment, cancer rates are not dropping as rapidly as hoped.

"The ultimate control of cancer is as much a public policy issue as it is a medical and scientific issue," Mr. Seffrin said. 47 million Americans lack health insurance.

Studies show that uninsured cancer patients are twice as likely to receive late diagnoses as insured patients. Late treatment is impeding the cancer society's goal of reducing cancer death rates by 50% between 1990 and 2015. If present trends continue, the goal might be missed by half.

Without increased access to health care, Mr. Seffrin said, cancer "will become the leading cause of death in the world, needlessly," while impovershing afflicted families. Financial ruin comes to one in four uninsured families afflicted by cancer, and one out of five insured families.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

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