Republican presidential hopefuls Mike Huckabee and Sam Brownback on Tuesday suggested that as president they would increase federal spending for cancer research and focus more on preventing the disease.
"We are about to see a tsunami of cancer in America" because the graying of the Baby Boomer generation means more people are reaching ages in which the risk of cancer is higher, said Brownback, himself a skin cancer survivor. "If you have a tsunami coming, you don't just wait to count the dead bodies, you get prepared."
Said Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor and healthy-living advocate known for his dramatic 110-pound weight loss: "If we spend money on the front end preventing and researching, we'd spend a lot less of it on the back end" because there would be fewer people needing to undergo expensive treatments for the chronic disease.
"Study after study show the return on investment," he added.
The two, considered second-tier GOP contenders, appeared separately at a forum sponsored by Lance Armstrong, a seven-time Tour de France champion cyclist and a cancer survivor. All Republican presidential candidates were invited, but none of the leading contenders - including cancer survivors Rudy Giuliani and John McCain - were present.
Earlier, in Washington, Mitt Romney, a former governor who made health care reform his signature issue in Massachusetts, told breast cancer survivors that their disease "is getting less than a fair shake" when it comes to research funding and suggested that he, too, would be open to a funding boost. "There's no substitute for funding," he said at a conference of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a 25-year-old network of breast cancer survivors.
At the Armstrong-sponsored forum in the leadoff caucus state, Brownback called for ending deaths by cancer in 10 years, and said reaching that goal may take a "substantial" increase of the current research budget. The National Cancer Institute had a $4.8 billion budget in fiscal year 2005, and nearly half of that was allocated for research project grants.
Additionally, the Kansas senator said a vaccine against a virus that causes cervical cancer should be "accessible and cheap." But he said he was hesitant for the federal government to require the vaccination as some states have done.
Huckabee, for his part, argued that the United States can afford to fight the wars in Iraq and on terrorism, as well as a war on cancer and all chronic diseases. "It's not a matter of picking and choosing which wars to fight," he said.
He also said that if he were president, he would sign a bill to outlaw smoking nationwide in public places, and said he would go further to say "no smoking in any indoor area where people have to work."