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Cancer survivors Lance Armstrong and Hamilton Jordan called on President Bush and the Democratic presidential candidates Wednesday to make the fight against cancer a national priority.
More than 30 years after President Nixon declared a ``war against cancer,'' Armstrong, a five-time Tour de France winner from Austin, Texas, and Jordan, White House chief of staff under President Carter, said not enough is being done at the national level.
We are still at war,'' Armstrong said at a National Press Club luncheon. Comparing the war on cancer to the war on terrorism, he noted that cancer - which kills about 1,500 Americans daily - wassomething like Sept. 11 every two days.''
Armstrong, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1996, said, ``I consider myself as a person who got out of the (World) Trade Center towers five minutes before they came down.'' He is the founder of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which is dedicated to promoting the recovery of cancer survivors.
Jordan, who has survived three different types of cancer - non-Hodgkins lymphoma, prostate cancer and melanoma - noted that cancer survivorship has increased from 30 percent in the early 1970s to 65 percent now.
``We have come a long way, but there is a lot left to do,'' said Jordan, the founder of the Atlanta-based Georgia Cancer Coalition.
The federal government spends about $4.6 billion a year on cancer, but Jordan said that is not enough. He noted that total federal spending on cancer in the past three decades has amounted to about one-fourth of a penny out of every federal dollar spent. Jordan said he could see spending two or three times the current amount each year.
Americans are more afraid of becoming a victim of cancer than they are of becoming a victim of crime, an automobile accident or a terrorist attack, according to a poll sponsored by Armstrong's foundation and the American Association for Cancer Research.
The poll also found that more Americans were afraid of contracting cancer than of getting Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, HIV/AIDS or diabetes. It also found that nearly two-thirds of those surveyed would support a doubling of the National Cancer Institute's budget to about $10 billion.
Current estimates are that 40 percent of all Americans will develop cancer sometime during their lifetime. Because people are living longer, estimates are that by 2010 that share will grow to about half of all Americans.
Cancer is the greatest fear of the American people,'' Jordan said.That is a rational fear.''
Reducing cancer rates and improving cancer survivability is not only a humane policy, ``it's good economic policy,'' Jordan said, noting that cancer costs the country about $170 billion year.
Armstrong and Jordan said they expect to personally meet with Bush and the Democratic presidential candidates to urge them to elevate cancer as a national priority. Jordan said he raised the issue during the 2000 election with Bush and then-Vice President Al Gore, both of whom lost a sister to cancer. Both supported doubling the National Cancer Institute's budget.
Armstrong, who is tied with four other cyclists for the most Tour de France victories, said he expects to compete again in 2004 and 2005, but later added ``you never know. I might be here(cq) in '06.'' No one has won six of the grueling three-week competitions.
Armstrong, who is divorcing his wife of five years, Kristin, said his celebrity status has ``made it tough'' to live a normal home life, but that he is devoted to his three children.
Regarding his future athletic endeavors, he said, ``the most I am willing to commit to is being a T-ball coach.''
On the Web:
American Association for Cancer Research: www.aacr.org
Georgia Cancer Coalition: www.georgiacancer.org
Lance Armstrong Foundation: www.laf.org
(The Cox web site is at http://www.coxnews.com )
c.2003 Cox News Service