Cancer is the cause of a quarter of all UK deaths, and well over a third of all deaths in adults under 65

In 2002 the Imperial Cancer Research Fund and the Cancer Research Campaign merged to create the world's largest independent cancer research organisation: Cancer Research UK. Both of the parts which today make up Cancer Research UK had worked together on numerous occasions since their inception over a century ago and, finally putting aside their differences, the two organisations were able to consolidate forces and so become the international forerunner in research and promotion of awareness and prevention, with the ear of the British Government to boot.

"Our vision is to conquer cancer through world-class research, aiming to control the disease within two generations"

The organisation is funded almost entirely by donations. The annual reports are available to the public and are fairly transparent. The various members of the administrative and scientific boards don't appear to be paid well if my maths is to be trusted and the amount set aside for administration is a little over £1000. Recent reports show an annual charitable expenditure of over £200 million. All in all, it seems that they are a trusworthy organisation unlike those where huge salaries are paid out to Board members and vast amounts of funds siphoned off to fuel a clunky bureaucratic machine.

Eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and maintaining your recommended body weight is the single most effective way, after quitting smoking, to protect yourself from cancer

Responsible for tying and loosening the purse strings and for general decision making and campaign strategy are the Executive Board and Council of Trustees, both of which are filled with heavyweight scientific personnel with no space for vanity positions. A number of celebs from the world of sport and entertainment lend their faces for publicity purposes. This list includes James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan, Texas frontwoman Sharleen Spiteri and footie hero Sir Bobby Robson.

Survival rates have increased by over 16% in the past 15 years

Donations come in all shapes and forms. Whether this be through covenants (tax redemption scheme for charitable donations) or monthly direct debit or a more active role such as participation in the regular events held around the country. Turnover is also guaranteed thanks to the thousands of volunteers who run the shops found on many a high street to provide a constant revenue stream. High profile events such as the annual Race for Life and this year's abseiling in Murrayfield rugby stadium bring in figures of around £20 million through individual sponsorship. This money is then spent on supporting the work of foremost scientists in the field by providing training for scientists and funding state-of-the-art centres for excellence where the scientists have access to the latest technological advances in order to pursue their research work. In parallel run various support schemes for consultants, doctors and other healthcare staff who work within the area of oncology. Medical issues such as palliative care alternatives and the psychological impact on both patient and family are topics which the charity firstly researches and then passes on to those in the firing line in the form of ongoing training programmes.

The aim of the organisation is focussed on four major areas of research:

  • The biology and causes of cancer
  • Cures for cancer
  • Prevention of cancer
  • Improving quality of life for sufferers

Given their status as the leading cancer research organisation they also strive to be the communicator of choice when education is needed, advising, among others, the British Government on an ad hoc basis.

"Unfortunately there's no such thing as Lung Cancer Extra Mild."

They do become involved whenever they feel something is of particular concern to the public (though given the nature of their research I would expect everything to be of concern to the public!) and have in the past lobbied against potentially harmful legislation, teamed up with pharmaceutical companies in order to be more closely involved in drug trials and put their money behind a new professorship with the aim of aiding research into methods of helping people to stop smoking. The charity is currently throwing its weight behind the proposals to make public spaces in Britain smoke free and launched a spin-off website dedicated to exploding the myths of low-tar cigarettes.

More than 7,300 cases of malignant melanoma are diagnosed each year in the UK

On their website you will find dizzying amounts of information. From statistics to public awareness campaigns. You can sign petitions (at the time of writing it was the Smoke-free workplaces petition, to be delivered to the government) and donate by direct debit, you can download pdfs of research data and leaflets on dozens of aspects of cancer prevention, treatment, family and loved ones help, practical advice and much more. Written in plain English it is easy to read, informative and non-alarmist. The campaign section has information and links to sign petitions, send campaign emails and vote in opinion polls. Throughout the main site people are encouraged to help by donating, volunteering, fund-raising or participating in scheduled events.

On a more personal note:
I am aware that many people are sceptical of both charities and medical research entities as some of them have acquired a bad name in the past. However, I believe that one bad apple should not be allowed to spoil the barrel. Personally, I do actively support Cancer Research UK as my mother became involved in this year's Race for Life. Her attitude is that, having been through the cancer cycle herself, that more research can only be a good thing and to hell with the politics. For a greater understanding of the issues involved I suggest you read grundoon's "cancer diary" daylogs and doyle's The One-Boobed Systyrs of the Apocalypse. Cancer is killing our friends and family. It's time to take action.

All quotes and statistics taken from the following websites:

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