Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Surviving cancerCancer is even worse in the movies

Thanks in part to earlier diagnoses and advances in treatment, the chances of surviving some of the most common types of cancer have increased in the past few decades. This chart shows the percentage of people who lived at least five years after a diagnosis of one of the 10 most common types of cancer.

There are too few Hollywood endings when it comes to the depiction of cancer in the movies, doctors say.

Last fall, Italian researchers analyzed 82 cancer-themed movies, including Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Gran Torino. They found that rarer cancers were most often featured and that characters were more likely to die than real-life patients.

"Very often, the ill person doesn't get over the disease, and his death is somehow useful to the plot's outcome," Dr. Luciano De Fiore said in a statement. "This pattern is so strongly standardized that it persists in spite of real progress of treatments."

Cancer is the second-most-common cause of the death in the United States, second only to heart disease. Troubling trends make headlines, such as this week's news that rare but serious breast cancer among young women has increased slightly.

Yet the overall picture is more optimistic. As diagnosis has improved and treatments have advanced, there are an estimated 13.7 million survivors, according to the National Cancer Institute.

In the movies analyzed, 40 characters with cancer were women and 35 were men, although more men develop cancer. Death occurred in 63 percent of the movies. By contrast, the American Cancer Society reports that the five-year survival rate for all cancers is 68 percent.

The researchers noted that common cancers, including breast cancer, are hardly represented, while relatively rare leukemias, lymphomas and brain tumors predominate.

Dr. Robert A. Clark, a Florida radiologist who conducted a similar film review published in 2001, said lung, breast and colon cancers are largely avoided, in part because fictional patients are usually young and attractive. The majority of cancers, however, occur in those 55 and older.

"Cancer can involve a lot of messy things — surgeries with colostomies and urinary bags and some kind of nasty things," Clark said. "That's not something that filmmakers typically want to portray."

Clark also said he believes that lung cancer is ignored because filmmakers are enamored with smoking.

Surviving cancerCancer is even worse in the movies 02/27/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 9:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Gators rally past Kentucky, streak hits 31


    LEXINGTON, Ky. — For the second week in a row, Florida found itself storming the field in a game that came down to the last second. A 57-yard field-goal attempt by Kentucky kicker Austin MacGinnis came just a few feet short of making history and snapping a 30-year losing streak, as the No. 20 Gators escaped a …

    Florida wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) scores a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Lexington, Ky.
  2. Pen makes it way too interesting as Rays hang on for 9-6 win


    A couple of home runs provided the news pegs of the night for the Rays, but it was more topical to talk about what nearly happened as they hung on for a 9-6 win over the Orioles.

    Lucas Duda's three-run homer in the third inning was the Rays' record-breaking 217th of the season, as well as his …

  3. An attempt to project what Rays will look like in 2018

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — We know what the Rays look like this year: a team that had enough talent but too many flaws, in construction and performance, and in the next few days will be officially eliminated from a wild-card race it had a chance to win but let slip away.

    Adeiny Hechavarria, high-fiving Lucas Duda, seems likely to be brought back.
  4. Trump fallout: Bucs' DeSean Jackson to make 'statement' Sunday


    Bucs receiver DeSean Jackson said Saturday that he will make a "statement" before today's game against the Vikings in response to President Donald Trump's comment that owners should "fire" players who kneel in protest during the national anthem.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) makes a catch during the first half of an NFL game between the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017.
  5. Kriseman invites Steph Curry to St. Pete on Twitter


    Mayor Rick Kriseman is no stranger to tweaking President Donald Trump on social media.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman took to Twitter Saturday evening to wade into President Donald Trump's latest social media scuffle