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Article
May 16, 1986

Reagan case sparks interest in colon cancer

JAMA. 1986;255(19):2535. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370190017003

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Abstract

Whenever a prominent public figure comes down with a medical problem or an identifiable disease, public interest in that disease surges.

President Reagan's colon cancer proved no exception. When it was announced that the President had undergone surgery for colon cancer, there was a sudden "tremendous interest in colorectal cancer," says Irving Rimer, the American Cancer Society's public relations director in New York City.

At the time, a spokesperson for the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md, reported that the day after the diagnosis was announced, the institute received 75 telephone calls concerning colorectal cancer. Before that, the institute averaged only about seven calls a day on the subject.

In the normal course of events, it might reasonably be expected that this interest would wane with time. But not in this case.

The continued interest is attested to by data collected by a program called the Cancer Information Service, which

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