Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Should we be substituting brown ribbons for pink?

I was at the market the other day and, at checkout, saw a little pink-ribboned plea for money for breast cancer research. What struck me was a quote on the placard from Melissa Etheridge stating that breast cancer is the "second leading cause of cancer deaths among women." I thought that peculiar. Why aren't we seeking money for the first leading cause of cancer deaths among women? It turns out that women are dying of lung cancer at a far greater rate than they are dying of breast cancer -- but you'd never know it. There are no little brown ribbons to remind us of the fact that, as more and more women turn their lungs brown with cigarette smoke, more and more women die of lung cancer. I don't say this to denigrate breast cancer victims, breast cancer research or breast cancer fundraising. However, it seems to me that we need to expend some of our energy to educate a new generation of women about the dangers of smoking. You know, when I was growing up in the 1970s, anti-smoking fervor was incredibly strong. I remember a traveling scientist coming to my elementary school bringing with him a genuine human lung, taken from a dead smoker, to show us the profound tissue damage the smoker's lungs sustained. There was also the smoking doll -- really a plastic head that could puff a cigarette. A white handkerchief was placed between the cigarette and the doll's mouth so that we could see the filthy brown stain left on the handkerchief after just a few puffs. I know that the allocation of research funds is politically driven, and that breast cancer has a hold on the political pocket book and the public imagination because it is a disease that is unique to women (and, I guess, men who have taken hormones to change sex). Still, given that smoking is becoming a mini-plague in itself, it strikes me that a little more attention ought to be paid to informing women about the apparently forgotten risk of lung cancer from smoking.