Cancer & the Corporation

Just when you thought that breast cancer was the only cancer with corporate sponsorship with questionable motivation and focus--here comes a story from the New York Times on what happens when skin cancer joins with Neutrogena. I read it today in the Chicago Tribune, which cut the 1,200-word story in half. (See NYT story in Comments section.) Headline: "Doctors Balk at Cancer Ad, Citing Lack of Evidence." Neutrogena paid for a public service announcement on skin cancer, to run in 15 women's magazines this summer. The message: Use sunscreen and "if left unchecked, skin cancer can be fatal."

T'ain't that simple, say public-health doctors. Says one: "We have some pretty good evidence that sunscreen will reduce your risk of the less lethal forms of skin cancer. There's very little evidence that sunscreens protect you against melanoma"--which causes most skin cancer deaths. He adds that even though more more people are getting skin cancer screening, the incidence of melanoma has risen.

The American Cancer Society came up with the ad message and one ACS official says, "We've taken some license."

Neutrogena is a division of Johnson & Johnson, "whose sunscreens carry the society's logo," the Times points out.

Some of us are old enough to remember the Johnson & Johnson ads urging us to use baby oil to tan when we lay out in the sun. And that's what we did. But apparently we don't have to feel so guilty for it, because even if that practice makes us more vulnerable to skin cancer, it's not the kind we'll die from. So that's good news.

Meanwhile, Cancer Bitch slathers on sunscreen for reasons of vanity. She has light patches on her hands that don't tan. It's called vitiligo. And is the least of her problems. Still the patches show up more in summer (as the adjacent skin tans, despite the sunscreen).