August 14, 2005

Lance Armstrong says U.S. should focus on cancer war

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Seven-time Tour de France winner and
cancer survivor Lance Armstrong on Sunday said the United
States, which is embroiled in a costly war in Iraq, should
focus more effort on a war facing many Americans -- the one
against cancer.

Although the United States declared war on cancer in 1971,
Armstrong said in some ways, the country was losing that war.

"I'm not saying that spending on wars and terrorism is a
bad thing," Armstrong said in an interview on ABC's "This Week
with George Stephanopoulos."

When asked if the United States was doing enough to fight
cancer, Armstrong replied: "I think we could spend more money.
I think we could spend our money in different places. And I
think we could spend our money where it matters to the American

Armstrong, who is on the President's Cancer Panel, said
that the National Cancer Institute and other U.S. health
agencies need more money to better fight cancer.

"This is one of the few years where they have not had more
money. As a survivor, I think we would be better spending money
on an illness like cancer," said Armstrong, who was diagnosed
in 1996 with testicular cancer that spread to his brain and

The National Cancer Institute received $4.8 billion in
fiscal 2005, and although it requested more for 2006, its
funding is expected to be unchanged.

The U.S. government has spent about $300 billion since late
2001 fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. About two-thirds of
that was for Iraq.

Cancer is a leading cause of death in the United States.
According to the American Cancer Society, nearly half of all
U.S. men and about a third of women will develop cancer in
their lifetimes.

A month after winning his seventh straight Tour de France
and then retiring, Armstrong said he planned to focus his
efforts on fighting cancer.

But the 33-year-old said he was joking when he said
recently that he was thinking about running for public office,
such as governor of his native Texas.

"The biggest problem with politics or running for the
governor ... is that it would mimic exactly what I've done: a
ton of stress and a ton of time away from my kids," he said.
"Why would I want to go from pro cycling, which is stressful
and a lot of time away, straight into politics?"

But Armstrong, who in 1997 set up a foundation to help
cancer patients deal with the disease, said he hoped to be more
of an activist for the cause, like Irish rock star and
anti-poverty activist Bono of U2.

"To me this illness is not a political issue," he said. "I
can talk to a lot of people and say this should be a priority
for our country."