By the Numbers – What’s the fight against cancer worth?

Editor’s Note: By the Numbers is a new feature of Constitution Daily that extracts thought-provoking data from the news. Whether you’re following us in school, at your place of work, or at home, By the Numbers provides data you can use to shape an opinion or start a civic conversation.

Pink White House (Wikimedia Commons)

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Along with the profusion of pink ribbons and pink-accented football players, proceeds of merchandise sales to breast cancer research organizations are highly marketed. It got me thinking about cancer funding overall and what impact, if any, federal budget cuts have had on the amount of money available to researchers. Here’s a look at the money trail, By the Numbers:

$5.1 billionNational Cancer Institute (NIH)’s budget for fiscal year 2010.

$4.9 billion – Average budget per year from 2005 to 2010.

$1.3 billion – American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds received by NCI for FY2009 and FY2010.

$631.2 million – Spending on breast cancer research by NCI in 2010.

$58.6 million – Increase in breast cancer research spending from 2008 to 2010.

$55 million – Funding by Susan G. Komen for the Cure for research grants in 2011.

11% – Decrease in giving to the American Cancer Society in 2010.

3.3% – Budget increase proposed for National Institutes of Health in FY2012.

From these statistics, it doesn’t appear that federal spending on cancer research has necessarily been decreased or changed in a major way because of the economic downturn. But donations to non-governmental organizations like the American Cancer Society have been down, a possible reflection on individuals’ having less disposable money at hand. Regardless, in 2011 alone, an estimated 230,480 American women will be diagnosed with new cases of invasive breast cancer. There is clearly a need for continued research into the causes of and treatments for cancer.

Those in favor of smaller government might argue that the federal government shouldn’t give money to research institutions such as the National Institutes of Health. Would the private sector or academic research institutions pick up the slack without that funding source? Do you think that cancer research funding should be preserved from budget cuts? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Paige Scofield is Programs and Communications Coordinator at the National Constitution Center.