Out-takes from an Interview in August 2013 with Brian Lamb, a journalist and the founder, executive chairman, and now retired CEO of C-SPAN which provides coverage of the U,S. Congress as well as other public affairs events and Francis Collins an American physican-genetist who currently is the Director of the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. Fact checking performed by Darryl Mitteldorf, Executive Director of Malecare.
Brian Lamb: Let me ask you about prostate cancer and breast cancer, the numbers, you probably have them but on that, I think from reading that more men get prostate cancer than women get breast cancer.
Francis Collins: That’s true. He has this correct. According to ACS in 2013 the estimated new cancers are: for breast (women) 232,590 and for prostate (for men) 238,590
Brian Lamb: Why do we not see the pink ribbons for prostate cancer and we see all of this attention on breast cancer? You almost see no campaigns and you know much as nothing on prostate cancer.
Francis Collins: There’s a bit, I mean, there’s certainly are groups of prostate cancer foundations that have very much promoted the importance of this. But prostate cancer, generally, is a disease of older men and prostate cancer is also less frequently lethal, perhaps. So, perhaps, therefore, it’s not seen as quite a public health emergency as breast cancer. But, certainly, there is a lot of advocacy that plays a role in terms of the visibility of particular conditions. And it isn’t always connected in terms of the seriousness of the problem, I mean, if you look at diabetes, diabetes kills a lot of people. From heart attacks, from kidney failure, it blinds people, but does diabetes have the same visibility as breast cancer? It doesn’t seem to. In part because there’s a different level of urgency and that’s promoted sometime by just how effective the advocates have been.
Fact Check: Deaths for breast cancer are 39,620 (a ratio of 17% against newly diagnosed) and for PC 29,720 (a ratio of 12.5% against newly diagnosed). However, the claim that 29,720 yearly deaths does not qualify as a public health emergency is shocking. His comments that PC is a disease of older men so it isn’t a public emergency is crossing a ethical, political and moral line that should not be approached, no less crossed. Additionally , his facts are simply wrong – As of January 1, 2012 the median age for breast cancer diagnosis was 61 years old and for prostate cancer it is was 67 years. I guess it depends on when you become old, is there a difference between 61 and 67 years?
Brian Lamb: How much money does the National Council Institute spend on breast cancer and how much does it spend on prostate cancer?
Francis Collins: I don’t know the numbers, it’s a lot, the national cancer institute…
Brian Lamb: Breast a lot more than prostate?
Francis Collins: I bet they’re fairly close and you know what, this is also something that’s important in terms of how we allocate funds. What we’re learning about cancer is that probably, our designation of cancers by the organ in which they arose is not very helpful. What really matters is which genes are activated, so if somebody is studying breast cancer, they might make a discovery that was actually more useful for prostate cancer than for breast. We should think about cancer research in a different way now and not try to pass it out into particular tissues of origin.
Fact Check: In 2010 breast cancer received 631.2 million dollars for research from the NCI while prostate cancer received only 300.5 million dollars, prostate cancer received only 47.6% of the NCI funding received by breast Cancer! His statement that a research finding in BC might be more effective for prostate cancer can be true, but it would need research dollars to make the jump, it doesn’t happen automatically and of course the reverse could be equally true, so the comment is out of line. This discrepancy is consistent from other US agencies, i.e. DOD breast cancer received for FY 92- FY13 2.924.5 million dollars and PC received 1.290 million dollars or 44% of the total funding for BC
Joel Nowak: Besides the numbers being appalling, we need to be very concerned that the Director of the NCI has no idea what he is claiming. He clearly has no clue about the level of funding of cancer research of his agency and he has no idea about the true nature of breast or prostate cancer.
Joel T. Nowak, M.A., M.S.W.