We have tried to make the original 2008 "lies, damn lies and statistics" post a bit more user-friendly.  Our post also explains the quote from the PAC2 Report on the September 2010 Pediatric Cancer Caucus from the Head, Division of Pediatrics, Children's Cancer Hospital at MD Anderson Cancer Center Dr. Eugenie Kleinerman who was quoted as saying:

"Curing childhood cancer is the equivalent of curing breast cancer in terms of productive life years saved".

Here's what she means....

We have all been lead to believe that childhood cancer is "rare".   And, I guess, when you look at the number of cases, it is.   But, is the number of cases the only number we should be looking at when comparing it to other cancers?   We don't think it is.   We think we should also look at the total number of years of life lost (Person Years Life Lost or PYLL) for each cancer.   And then compare funding based on the number of years of life lost for each cancer.  Basically, a method to "level the playing field" and compare apples to apples.  

So there are two questions:

#1 - How many years of potential life are stolen by each cancer?
#2 - Are the funding dollars per life years lost fair and equitable?

For example, the average age for a new case of prostate cancer is 68 years old, and the 5 year survival rate is 99%. That means that 1% of those new cases will die within 5 years, at or before age 73.  The average age of death from all causes in the US is 77.   So, on average, each case of prostate cancer results in a loss of 4 PYLL.

So then we calculate the total number of years of PYLL for prostate cancer.   In 2007 there were 186,320 new cases.  The latest 5 year survival is 99%.  So, of those new cases, there will be 1,863 deaths from prostate cancer within 5 years.   As we said above, each case represents 4 years of life lost.   So, 1,863 deaths x 4 years of life lost = 7,453 total PYLL. 

Then we look at funding.   Prostate cancer received $15 million in 2007 from the American Cancer Society.   So, $15 million divided by 7,453 years of life lost = $2,013 per year of life lost.  

Is that good or bad?   Well, you have to do the calculations for each cancer and compare the answers. 


First, lets look at the PYLL for the 10 most prevalent adult cancers, and include childhood cancer.


Childhood cancer results in the fifth highest number of life-years lost to any type of cancer. This FACT alone should eliminate any discussion of the "rareness" of cancer in children. A total of 178,750 potential life-years are lost to childhood cancer.

These are life's that NEVER get a chance to VOTE or ADVOCATE for more funding! Life's that NEVER get to DEMONSTRATE and PROTEST in front of the White House on September 13th......you in?!

OK, so now to be fair to everyone with cancer, let's make sure the funding for each potential life year lost is equal.


Surprise, surprise, it's NOT! And guess who's at the bottom of the list? So, after "leveling the playing field" we can see that funding is simply NOT fair and equitable for all types of cancer! And childhood cancers get the lowest amount of funding per year of life lost when compared to the 10 most prevalent adult cancers. Guess who votes? Guess who advocates?

So, don't ever be swayed by the "rareness" of childhood cancer argument. And don't ever let them tell you the funding is appropriate based on the number of cases. Those are the lies they want us to believe.

I mean if you compare the number of rifle and machine gun bullets expended in World War II, the number of atomic bombs dropped was "rare". But the effect was just the same.....

Here's what the whole thing looks like graphically; a lot of green ($$) is good; red (years lost) is bad.


Here is a similar chart developed based on the 2009 funding levels for the National Cancer Institute.

Conclusions WRT Childhood Cancer

  1. Childhood cancer represents the best value in terms of saving PYLL by curing one case.
  2. As we know, childhood cancer is relatively "rare", yet the total PYLL from childhood cancer is greater than or equal to 6 of the top 10 adult cancers.
  3. Despite that, overall funding for childhood cancer, when considering PYLL is shockingly low.  

All data is directly from the following sources:


If people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as the souls who live under tyranny. ~~ Thomas Jefferson

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This is awesome as usual. Thank you so much. Can I post this on my blog?
that's why we are doing this, to spread the word!
awesome. you really do all the hard work.
So, I have a question. My son has Leukemia does he ever fall into the Leukemia category or will he always be under Childhood Cancer?

p.s. do you ever sleep?
childhood cancer includes those under 20 only, and they are NOT included in the other categories......I was chatting with our co-founder......read about her in the Story Room archives
I was just talking about this type of comparison the other day, but I didn't have the facts. Now I do. Thanks.
who are the statisticians out there........??????
not i, i can barely type. im more the artist type. BUT i can repost this all over myspace. and my blog, and etc etc.
Send the graph to the people at SU2C! There must be a mailing address somewhere.....
So, other than spreading the word about these statistics, what can we at PAC2 do about this? I know that we don't want to make enemies out there, but could we think about starting a campaign, -maybe in 2010 - in which we, as a unified group, approach the ACS and share the figures with them, let them know our stories, and request that more funding go to childhood cancers? We're doing this for SU2C, we're doing this with our legislators, why not do this with ACS? I'm sure that with the economy being what it is, they realize now, more than ever, that they really need our support and they need our kids' stories and faces out there to help them raise money. Maybe we could make a difference here. I would love to see how they would respond.
OR should we try a media campaign to get these stats out to those in the general public? Not in an aggressive way, but a very matter-of-fact way. One of my son's friends told him the other day that she wasn't contributing to his lemonade stand b/c she was raising money instead for Relay for Life. -- So he said to her, "Well, you know that only 3% of their funding goes to childhood cancer research, right?" Of course she said "No. I thought it was mostly going to kids like you "- (pause) - then she said "I might have to re-think this now." I think a lot of people would feel the same way if they knew the facts. These are just ideas running through my overly-active brain - Maybe this could be discussed at Reach the Day in June?
This is something to think about. You know that Relay for Life and the ACS are not going to want it to be known that so little of their money goes to pediatric cancers. The public does not know. Everybody thinks that when you see a bald child's photo associated with a group that raises money for cancer that the money goes there. This is why I like CureSearch, because the money raised actually goes for the pediatric cancers.
Brenda - Yes, and even I - a mother of a child with cancer for the past 10 years had no idea that this was the case until joining PAC2 4 months ago -so of course the public doesn't know. I'm just thinking and hoping (maybe I'm too naive) that maybe we could get the ACS to work with us on this.


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