Making donations to cancer charities

Making a Difference: Contributing to Cancer Charities

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Every two years, the American Cancer Society publishes a new report on breast cancer trends. The latest report came out earlier this month.

Does the report show we’re really making a great deal of progress against breast cancer as some of the media stories are presenting it? Or is progress more incremental in nature?

And how might we respond in a way that could make a difference–during this month of October and during the rest of the year as well?

Status of Progress Against Breast Cancer

Here’s what the American Cancer Society’s 2017 report on breast cancer says, in brief.*

  • New Breast Cancer Cases: Over 252,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected for 2017 in the United States. Over 40% of these diagnoses will be in women in their fifties, forties and younger.
  • Lifetime Risk: A woman living in the US has a 1-in-8 chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. In the 1970s, the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer was 1 in 11.
  • Breast Cancer Deaths: Approximately 40,610 women and 460 men are expected to die from breast cancer in the US in 2017.
  • Breast Cancer Mortality Rates:  After slowly increasing from 1975 through 1990, population-adjusted breast cancer death rates for all women in the United States decreased by about 39% from 1990 to 2015.
  • Socioeconomic disparities:  Declining mortality rates have not been equal across ethnic groups. The rate of death from breast cancer is now 42% higher for African American women than for white women in the United States.

Clearly, some progress has been made. But it isn’t nearly enough. Mortality rates have declined over the last twenty years, but the amount of the decline seems modest in view of widespread screening. Inequalities across ethnic groups are growing worse. And, while metastatic breast cancer (MBC) is responsible for nearly all breast cancer deaths, progress against MBC has slowed.

Breast Cancer Charities and Cancer Research Charities

There are many excellent, highly-rated charities that provide support or educational services or advocate on behalf of those affected by cancer. I contribute to or volunteer with several of these, and have written about contributing to breast cancer charities, including some ideas on how to select charities to donate to.

And when it comes to research, contributing a few pennies at the grocery story that will go who knows where, or buying a product with a pink ribbon on it, is unlikely to have much impact. A better alternative is to include in our donations a charity whose main emphasis is cancer research.

There are a number of highly rated nonprofits that primarily engage in or fund cancer research. I’ve written reviews of four of the ones that are large enough to receive ratings from Charity Navigator and other charity rating agencies. Here is some quick info on each, along with links to the full reviews and the charities’ websites.

Stand Up To Cancer

SU2C’s mission is to fund translational research that can get new therapies from the bench to the bedside quickly and save lives. The organization approaches its mission by putting together “dream teams” of scientists, clinicians and other experts as well as patient advocates to “work on solutions to the unique problems that cancer presents.” SU2C also awards grants to early-career scientists with novel ideas that have strong potential to impact patient care.

The Entertainment Industry Foundation (which SU2C comes under) has a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and an A- rating from Charity Watch.

Here are the links for: my review of Stand Up To Cancer and SU2C’s website.

Breast Cancer Research Foundation

The mission of BCRF is to prevent and cure breast cancer by advancing the world’s more promising research. It provides grants to researchers for studies that have the potential for rapid application in the clinic. A separate “Founders Fund” focuses specifically on improving understanding of the biology of breast cancer metastasis.

Breast Cancer Research Foundation has a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and an A+ rating from Charity Watch.

Here are the links for: my review of Breast Cancer Research Foundation and BCRF’s website.

Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation

This Foundation’s mission is to achieve a future without breast cancer by engaging the public and scientific communities in innovative research on cause and prevention. DSLRF both performs project-based research itself and also facilitates research conducted by others through its Army of Women program.

DSLRF has a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator.

Here are the links for: my review of Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation and DSLRF’s website.

Cancer Research Institute

The mission of CRI is to save more lives by fueling the discovery and development of immunotherapies for all types of cancer. The organization has been working to develop effective immune system treatments for cancer for over 50 years. It carries out its mission by funding basic science, translational and clinical research studies in cancer immunology at leading academic institutions in the United States and globally.

CRI has a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and an A rating from Charity Watch.

Here are the links for: my review of Cancer Research Institute and CRI’s website.

*American Cancer Society, Breast Cancer Facts & Figures, 2017-2018

Related Posts
Supporting Breast Cancer Charities: A Better Way
Breast Cancer: How Much Progress Have We Made?
Donating for Cancer Research: Choosing Value
Contributing to Breast Cancer Charities

Image Credit: Zerbor via Shutterstock


















  1. I wish you would have included Breaston Cancer Research Foundation as well as Metavivor. Thank you.

    1. Janet, do you mean Breast Cancer Research Foundation?–I actually did include it, as well as a link to my earlier full review of that charity. And there are of course other cancer research charities well worth considering. Those that I’ve covered here have been some of the larger ones that have received high ratings from the major charity rating agencies.

  2. Hi Lisa,
    I found the headlines regarding the decrease in the death rates percentage from that ACS report to be misleading, so thank you for addressing this. As you mentioned, there’s a lot of screening going on which leads to more diagnoses, which is not the whole story because as we all know, some cancers would remain indolent. The socioeconomic disparities that exist are simply unacceptable, so I’m glad this was highlighted. With the uncertainty in the state of healthcare these days, I fear things might worsen all the way around. Statistics can be tricky, not to mention, misleading at times. Thanks for the charity review links too. Another informative read. Thank you, Lisa.

    1. Hi Nancy. I found those headlines to be misleading too. Someone reading casually could come away with the idea that we’ve just about “solved” breast cancer. Without knowing the whole story, people could understandably be confused about the continued need for strong investment in research. And in areas such as dealing with socioeconomic disparities and ensuring everyone who needs it can get good care, we simply must do better. Thanks as always for reading and sharing your thoughts.

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