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The American Cancer Society (ACS) is the "nationwide community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy and service."

The society is organized into thirteen geographical divisions of both medical and lay volunteers operating in more than 3,400 offices throughout the United Statesmarker and Puerto Rico. Its home office is located in the American Cancer Society Centermarker in Atlanta, Georgiamarker.

The society was originally founded in 1913 by 15 physicians and businessmen in New York Citymarker under the name American Society for the Control of Cancer (ASCC). The current name was adopted in 1945.

The sword symbol, adopted by the American Cancer Society in 1928, was designed by George E. Durant of Brooklynmarker, New Yorkmarker. According to Durant, the two serpents forming the handle represent the scientific and medical focus of the society’s mission and the blade expresses the “crusading spirit of the cancer control movement."

Its activities include providing grants to researchers, running public health advertising campaigns, and organizing projects such as the Relay For Life and the Great American Smokeout. It operates a series of thrift stores to raise money for its operations. Notable endorsements include the Hopkins 4K for Cancer, a 4000-mile bike ride from Baltimoremarker to San Franciscomarker to raise money for the society's Hope Lodge.

In 1994, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, an industry publication, released the results of the largest study of charitable and non-profit organization popularity and credibility conducted by Nye Lavalle & Associates. The study showed that the American Cancer Society was ranked as the 10th "most popular charity/non-profit in America" of over 100 charities researched with 38% of Americans over the age of 12 choosing Love and Like A lot for the American Cancer Society.

Fund allocation

1938 American Society for the Control of Cancer poster.
The society’s allocation of funds for the fiscal year ending August 31, 2005 lists 70% of funds for Program Services (Research 14%, Prevention 20%, Patient Support 20%, Detection and Treatment 16%). The remaining 30% are allocated for supporting services (Fundraising 22%, and Management, General administration 8%) meeting the Better Business Bureau's Standards for Charity Accountability (At least 65% to program services and no more than 35% to overhead and fundraising expenses).


The society has funded 44 Nobel Prize laureates including James D. Watson, Mario Capecchi, Oliver Smithies, Paul Berg, E. Donnall Thomas, and Walter Gilbert.

In 1991 society-funded research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showing that children ages 3 to 6 recognized the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company cartoon character Joe Camel as easily as Mickey Mouse.


Charity Navigator rates the society three of four stars. According to Charity Navigator the society is directed to "eliminating cancer". The American Cancer Society's website contains a chronological listing of specific accomplishments in the fight against cancer that the ACS had a hand in, including the funding of various scientists who went on to discover life-saving cancer treatments, and advocating for increased use of preventative techniques.



In the past, the ACS has been involved in a few economic scandals: In 2000, Dan Wiant, an administrative officer, was accused of embezzling $7 million. In the 1980s, an employee discovered that a fund-raiser was leading a $4 million tax fraud scheme.


In 1995, the Arizona chapter of the American Cancer Society was targeted for its extremely high overhead. Two economists, James Bennett and Thomas DiLorenzo, issued a report analyzing the chapter's own financial statements and demonstrating that it uses about 95% of its donations for paying salaries and other overhead costs, resulting in a 22 to 1 ratio of overhead to actual money spent on the cause. The report also found that the Arizona chapter's annual report had grossly misrepresented the amount of money spent on patient services, inflating it by more than a factor of 10. The American Cancer Society responded by alleging that the two economists issuing the report were working for and receiving pay-offs from the tobacco industry, but did not offer any evidence to support these claims.

Long before the problem with overhead in the Arizona chapter was exposed, the decentralized nature of the ACS was pointed to as a problem in cutting down overhead costs in local branches: central managers have little control over local chapters, which are run by independent boards, and are reluctant to pressure the boards as they receive funding from the local chapters. The ACS did move from New York Citymarker to Atlantamarker to reduce overhead costs of the central part of the organization.

See also


  1. American Caner Society: Fact Sheet
  2. The Charities Americans Like Most And Least, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, December 13, 1996 And USA Today, December 20, 1994, "Charity begins with health", FINAL 01D
  3. Fischer PM, Schwartz MP, Richards JW Jr, Goldstein AO, Rojas TH. Brand logo recognition by children aged 3 to 6 years. Mickey Mouse and Old Joe the Camel. JAMA. 1991 Dec 11;266(22):3145-8. PMID 1956101
  4. Cancer Society Executive Surrenders to the F.B.I.. The New York Times. Retrieved on February 9 2007.
  5. Ex-Fund-Raiser At Cancer Society Indicted In $4 MillionTax Fraud. The New York Times. Retrieved on February 9 2007.
  7. Gwen Kinkead, "AMERICA'S BEST-RUN CHARITIES The key clue: How much does your favorite cause spend on programs instead of overhead?", Fortune Magazine, Nov. 9, 1987.

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