Monday, October 08, 2012

Awareness monkeys are a pox on humanity

October is both "Breast Cancer Awareness Month" and also "Cybersecurity Awareness Month". I ridiculed this last year (why not make every month Everything Awareness Month)? I want to ridicule this again this year.

Breast Cancer already has far to much awareness. We spend more per death on Breast Cancer research than any other cancer. Here is spending chart from 2006:

Cancer (Deaths)N.C.I. Funding per Death
Lung (162,460)$1,630
Colon (55,170)$4,566
Breast (41,430)$13,452
Pancreas (32,300 )$2,297
Prostate (27,350)$11,298

Okay, the small funding for lung cancer is expected, because we know what causes most of it (smoking), but that doesn't apply to the other types of cancer.

Funding is tradeoff. Each additional dollar allocated to breast cancer means one less dollar for some other cancer. The huge political force behind breast cancer drives dollars that way at the expense of the other cancers.

In other words, Breast Cancer Awareness Month kills people. If you really cared about people instead of politics, you'd raise awareness about pancreatic cancer this month instead of breast cancer.

Yes, breast cancer is a horrible thing. A close friend of mine had surgery for it five years ago and survived it. On the other hand, another close friend died of a non-breast cancer. I would love to increase funding for all cancer research. But given that budget is largely fixed, we need to do a more rational job at allocating that funding.

(By the way, the TSA would be a good start for more cancer funding. Its $8 billion 2012 budget equals that of cancer research, but does far less good.)

Whether it's cancer or cybersecurity (or the TSA) most people are irrational about risk. My subversive goal for these months is to teach rational risk management, to teach this lesson of "tradeoffs". Join me this October: when you see somebody wearing a Breast Cancer Awareness pink ribbon, go up to them and increase their awareness of pancreatic cancer, and how it gets a sixth the funding (per death) of breast cancer.

h/t @theprez for reminding me that I need to blog about relative cancer spending


Iljitsch van Beijnum said...

Worst of all, huge amounts are spent on raising awareness. Spend the money on research instead.

Adam A said...

Seems oversimplified. I don't think more people would donate to pancreatic cancer if there were fewer breast cancer awareness campaigns - it's not zero sum in the slightest. Without advertising, most people will not donate. I'd imagine that money donated toward any type of cancer will have positive effects toward research into every cancer since there are definite similarities.  A hard reality is that I'd also bet advertising dollars are more effective on something with the word "breast" in it than "pancreatic".  All of these combine to mean that breast cancer awareness might be the best thing you can do for pancreatic cancer. I'm not saying it is, but I'm saying you passed judgement without much info and your conclusions aren't really trustworthy.

George said...

But both men and women love breasts :). For different reasons of course.