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Christmas Seals Turn 104!

Published: December 17, 2010

Decorative seals for Christmas cards and packages helped control tuberculosis by raising funds for research, mobile x-ray units, and public health programs. Today, the nation’s oldest direct-mail fundraising campaign has set its sights on other forms of lung disease—including lung cancer.

Most of us remain in the dark about the most deadly cancer in this country, according to a new survey by the National Lung Cancer Partnership (NLCP).

“Lung cancer is by far the number one cancer killer in the United States, yet the disease isn’t on people’s radar,” said Regina Vidaver, Ph.D., executive director of the nonprofit advocacy organization. “If we’re going to catch it early and give people the best chance for survival, they need to know about lung cancer and its symptoms, take measures to reduce their risk, and talk with their doctor about their health history.”

Tuberculosis—also called “consumption”—was the leading cause of death worldwide when Red Cross volunteer Emily Bissell expanded the promotion of Christmas Seals (then called Christmas “Stamps”) from Denmark to the United States in 1907. Needing $300 to save a small sanitarium for TB victims in Delaware, the innovative Bissell borrowed $40 to create special stamps that were sold at a local post office for a penny each. Soon, President Roosevelt endorsed the campaign, and Christmas Seals became a nationwide holiday tradition.

More than a century later, profits from the enduring campaign support the American Lung Association in its fight for healthy lungs and healthy air. Lung disease comes in many forms, including asthma, influenza, emphysema, and, of course, lung cancer.

Half of all lung cancers occur in people who have already quit smoking, according to the NLCP. Exposure to radon, a radioactive gas without color or odor, is the second leading cause of the disease.

Quick Facts About Lung Cancer

  • Lung cancer takes more women’s lives each year than breast cancer.
  • Lung cancer takes more men’s lives each year than prostate cancer.
  • Symptoms include a cough that won’t go away; pain in the back, chest or shoulders that won’t go away; shortness of breath; unexplained wheezing; and coughing up blood.

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