Why is breast cancer more "famous" than other cancers?

Why are there so many functions/advertisements/endorsements for breast cancer over other forms of cancer? Every time I turn on the radio, I hear about another breast cancer walk. Many of the food packages in the supermarket have a pink ribbon with the words “Proud Sponsor of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Awareness Fund” (or something like it). Why does breast cancer get so much more attention than, say, ovarian, testicular, bone, or lung cancer?

ETA: I can imagine an answer to this thread would be, “Because losing a breast makes you lose part of what makes you a woman.” But couldn’t the same be said about men who lose testicles to cancer?

One more question, which I missed the edit window on: When does “awareness” become “research”? Isn’t everyone pretty much already aware of the existence of breast cancer?

It also might be said of uterine or ovarian cancer. However, (1) I suspect that cancer of the genital system is less common than breast cancer, and (2) a big factor is that mastectomy affects your appearance a lot more than removal of part of your genital system.

It’s got a great publicist.

It’s got awesome PR. I work for a charity, and sometimes, while we don’t exactly resent their popularity, we wish we could get a little of it too. They’re like the frat house and we’re like the Asian students association - they always get first choice of everything.

This is sort of a periodic topic of discussion around here. I think the shortest answer is that breast cancer is pretty treatable, it’s easy to raise support for because both men and women have a reason to care about it, and the survivors have banded together very successfully, particularly because they’ve managed to work a feminist element into their fundraising efforts. Men being men (and the prostate being the prostate), I’m not sure men are as inclined to make as much of a cause out of it.

Some other discussions about this:
All right, all right, it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I GET IT.
I find “Save the Ta-tas” just a little bit tacky
Politically Correct Cancer

I suspect the same could indeed be said about a man who has testicular cancer, but you’re probably less likely to find men who do willingly come out and admit to having had it/needing to have one/both testicles removed, etc. Just look at all the jokes about amazing athlete Lance Armstrong after his testicular cancer (which metastatized to his brain and lungs) diagnosis. Of course, he did “bounce back” from that with his “Livestrong” bracelet and his cancer awareness/cancer patient and survivor support charity, plus continuing to be a tough athlete. Imagine Joe Average trying to say that he had a testicle or both removed but he’s still all man, and imagine what most other people would think about him.

Breast cancer was considered kind of shameful and embarrassing due to the location, but it wasn’t all that long ago that any kind of cancer diagnosis was often covered up by the sufferer and their family. Lung cancer got a lot of publicity before then, but it tends to be caused by smoking and so there’s often a stigma associated with getting it unless you can say ‘but I’ve never smoked’ and then people will pity you. Breast cancer is the second-most common cancer in women ( but only the 5th cancer killer these days ), so it’s a natural for getting more attention.

That being said, I think it does get a bit disproportionate in terms of attention. The groups that promote awareness/testing or support cancer sufferers/survivors are pretty strong for that particular cause, and problems that affect and kill even more women, like heart disease, need to get more supporters like the ones in the Komen Foundation and other groups.

Theoretically, “awareness” -> “give us money” -> “funding research”

In practice, “awareness” -> “guilt” -> “here, have a few bucks” -> “thanks, we’ll keep most of that and pass some of it on” -> “Hey, sweet! I’ve figured out a way to say that my favorite fruit fly gene is sort of similar to a human gene that once showed up on a screen of breast cancer-related genes! Lemme help myself to some of that massive pile of breast cancer money!”

At some point in that post, I may have crossed the line from factual information to editorializing.

Prostate cancer is more common than breast cancer and it only gets a fraction of the attention. It can directly affect sexual function and cause incontinence issues.

This is mainly a sociological phenomenon fueled by gender differences. A few vocal activists got the ball rolling and other females jumped on the bandwagon and it just keeps going. The movement is based around female activities like sharing feelings of loss of appearance, self-esteem, and vulnerability combined with social events like fund-raising walks. Men simply don’t want to talk about anything negative going on in their groin area especially if it has embarrassing side-effects and you don’t see many men organizing and showing up en masse for the type of social events that is the basis of the breast cancer awareness movement. I know that a few men get breast cancer and some men organize similar events for other causes but we are talking about sheer numbers here.

Breast cancer is terrible of course but it does seem like it steals the thunder of lots of other equally or more deserving causes including other cancers.

But people care much less what happens to men than women. If you want to advertise for charitable donations, putting up the image or name of a woman or child gets more sympathy and donations than one of a man; which isn’t really an option for a male only disease. There’s about twice as much female-specific medical research funding as there is male-specific research funding last I heard. Also, men are less prone to ask for help in the first place.

Testicular cancer only killed 380 men in the US in 2009, breast cancer killed 40,000 women. The only type of cancer that kills more women is lung cancer, which is already pretty famous. And there’s plenty of feeling that lung cancer is “earned” or “deserved”, or at least avoidable, while breast cancer is not.

Stats here (pdf).

Sorry, ya’ll used up your research money on the Viagra.

Seriously though, I get annoyed every time I see something promoting “awareness” of breast cancer. I think we’re all pretty aware, and yeah, it’s NOT necessarily more deserving of funding than any other disease.

Cite? Because my cite above says there were almost exactly the same number of new prostate cancer cases as breast cancer cases in 2009 - 192,000. And there were 13,000 more breast cancer deaths than prostate cancer deaths. If it’s more “common”, it’s only because men who have it survive for longer than women with breast cancer, which strikes me as a good argument that it doesn’t need as much immediate attention.

The Komen people have gotten a lot of people involved with all kinds of fund raising. They do way more than just Race for the Cure now.

Don’t forget the USPS even has a breast cancer stamp that cost extra with the extra money going to research.

IMO, it’s partially because breast cancer is often an easily curable/treatable disease, IF it is found early enough. I don’t think the campaigns are to raise awareness of breast cancer itself, because of course everyone knows what the disease is. I think it’s more of a campaign to make women more aware of their chances of developing breast cancer, and the ways in which they can help with early detection of the disease.

Well, almost everybody knows somebody who’s had breast cancer. It’s relatable.

Because it affects the, you know, breasts.

Bajillions of families find them awe-inspiringly important when they have children.

Bajillions of men (and some number of women) find them awe-inspirngly awesome for all of their lives.

Bajillions of dollars go into fetishizing them via advertising and entertainment.

They’re like toy trains–made for little kids, but everyone loves playing with them and whenever they’re around most people notice them.

Testicles get used in Elmo jokes and teabagging references.

Landing at London (Heathrow) last week my plane pulled up to a gate right next to an American Airlines plane, all painted up in pink for the Susan G. Komen For The Cure foundation. I can’t be sure it was this bird, as I didn’t get the tail number, but it looked like this. I’ve also seen some of the AA regional jets painted in this scheme.

I wonder if the passengers pay a service charge “donation” if they get that plane on their flights?

I also dragonboat; hard not to be aware of breast cancer when every other team is a survivor’s team. They kick butt and are generally awesome women, but at the same time, no, for the 878438927th time, I don’t want to buy a can of Coke for 2$ to support breast cancer awareness, and no, that doesn’t make me a bad person! I just brought my own Coke…!

This is a minor peeve of mine. Especially in October, when every damn last thing is pink. I always think, “When’s Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month?” “Why doesn’t colo-rectal cancer get a colored ribbon?”

I think the answer to the second one is, well, we all know what color that ribbon would be. :slight_smile:

Because it mostly affects women (yeah, men can get breast cancer, but mostly), and everyone loves feeling sorry for women. Men are supposed to be tough and stuff. :stuck_out_tongue: