70,000 young Americans between 15 and 39 years of age are diagnosed with cancer every year. This population falls in a gap between pediatric and adult cancer. Newly-diagnosed young adults often find themselves in a no-patients’-land, confronting a lack of targeted clinical trials and knowledgeable clinicians in local health markets.
The National Cancer Institute says that survival rates for this group of cancer patients haven’t improved in over 30 years.
That’s definitely cause to flip cancer the bird, and that’s exactly what the young actor, Zac Efron, has done.
Efron is photographed with a young cancer patient, Emily Hobson, to focus on Stupid Cancer wrist bands, which are part of an awareness campaign for the foundation, I’m Too Young for This (i2y).
The project has a Facebook page, Zac Gives Back, with fans from around the world. Based on a quick Google news search, I found that the Efron/Stupid Cancer story has reached France, Russia, Italy and the Netherlands in just a matter of days since Efron endorsed the Stupid Cancer wristband campaign.
Health Populi’s Hot Points: Of course, this isn’t the first time that popular culture engages with the cause of health. Pharmaceutical companies have engaged celebrities for years until recently: Magic Johnson represented HIV drugs and Mike Ditka repped Levitra for GSK; Bob Dole pitched Viagra for Pfizer; and, recently, Jim Belushi, Danica Patrick, and Patty Loveless joined with Boehringer-Ingelheim’s social media campaign, DRIVE4COPD.
Efron’s involvement with Stupid Cancer feels very authentic. He’s a young, dynamic performer at the top of his game, and he’s paying it forward for his generation in an edgy, smart campaign that speaks not only to his generation, but to all of us who have wanted to give cancer the proverbial finger.
Cancer awareness is not just about Komen and pink ribbons anymore. The young adult cancer community has been long overlooked, but they’re growing in activism and health engagement. Pop culture via Efron and i2y is bringing the cause into focus.
Beyond wristbands, it’s time for corporate America to engage with this overlooked cancer cohort. Companies market products and services — not just pills and chemotherapy, but iPods and jeans and cars and financial services and toothpaste — to people between the ages of 15 and 39. It would be a Smart move to support Stupid Cancer.