American Cancer Society

Relay for Life
The American Cancer Society is the nationwide community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem. Based in Atlanta, it has millions of volunteers and supporters throughout the United States.

History and Structure

Established in 1913 by ten physicians and five laymen as the American Society for the Control of Cancer, the American Cancer Society has always been governed by volunteers. The society's two main governing bodies are the National Assembly and the National Board of Directors, both of which work closely with community volunteers and society staff. The society's home office moved from New York City to Atlanta in 1988.
The society consists of the home office plus thirteen chartered regional divisions throughout the nation, with the South Atlantic Division also based in Atlanta. In 2007 the society moved its home and division offices in Atlanta to the Inforum building, located downtown. Designed by architect John Portman, the Inforum was renamed the American Cancer Society Center. Throughout Georgia there are more than fifteen local society offices. Atlanta is also home to one of the society's many Hope Lodge facilities, homelike environments for cancer patients and caregivers who must travel far from home for outpatient treatment.
In Georgia and throughout the country, the American Cancer Society leads the fight against cancer by preventing the disease, saving lives, and diminishing suffering through research, education, advocacy, and service.


Nearly all the latest discoveries in cancer research began with funding provided by the American Cancer Society. Between 1946 and 2003, the American Cancer Society distributed $2.5 billion to researchers. Traditionally, the society has focused its research support on beginning investigators with new ideas. Research is selected for funding through a scientific peer-review process to identify the most promising studies. Of the investigators chosen for funding early in their careers, thirty-two have gone on to win the Nobel Prize.


By collaborating with communities, corporations, physicians, and the media, the American Cancer Society works to arm the public with knowledge. The society's early-detection guidelines are designed to help people decide when and how to get tested for cancer. Educating people about early detection is especially important, because thousands of lives are saved each year by tests that find cancer at its earliest, most treatable stages. The society's Tell a Friend program, for example, aims to save lives from breast cancer by urging women to get mammograms. And the society encourages healthy lifestyle decisions—such as a nutritious diet, physical activity, abstaining from tobacco, and sun protection—that could help prevent two-thirds of cancer deaths in the United States.


The American Cancer Society addresses cancer as a political issue by engaging public health partners, volunteers, and lawmakers at all levels to enact better health-related laws and policies. The society urges the government to invest as much as possible in cancer research and research application. The society also advocates for policies to ensure that every American, regardless of income, has access to lifesaving treatments, tests, and clinical trials. Other top advocacy priorities include reducing health disparities among minorities and the medically underserved, and reducing suffering from tobacco-related illness.


The American Cancer Society provides a variety of services for people affected by cancer. For example, survivors and their loved ones can meet online and by phone via the Cancer Survivors Network. Men with prostate cancer find information and understanding through Man to Man meetings. Patients and their families get practical tips from medical professionals through the I Can Cope program. Women facing breast cancer get support and information from breast cancer survivors through Reach to Recovery. And the society offers people who are ready to quit smoking tips and counseling that can double their chances of quitting successfully. These are just a few of the many nationwide and local services the society sponsors.

Twenty-four-Hour Information

Specialists at the society's hotline (1-800-ACS-2345) provide millions of callers each year with information on cancer, its treatments and side effects, and community resources. This information is provided free of charge, day or night. The American Cancer Society also provides news articles, detailed cancer information, and interactive tools to help manage the disease at its Web site.

In Every Community

While the American Cancer Society's presence is nationwide, its approach is community-based. Its programs are adapted for each area, taking geographic, cultural, socioeconomic, and political factors into consideration. Special events and fund-raisers such as Relay for Life and Making Strides against Breast Cancer occur throughout Georgia and nationwide, each with its own local community flavor.
In Georgia and across the United States, the American Cancer Society strives to provide hope, progress, and answers—empowering people to conquer cancer in their own lives.


Further Reading
Harmon J. Eyre, Dianne Partie Lange, and Lois B. Morris, Informed Decisions: The Complete Book of Cancer Diagnosis, Treatment, and Recovery, 2d ed. (Atlanta: American Cancer Society, 2002).

Edward H. Laughlin, Coming to Terms with Cancer: A Glossary of Cancer-Related Terms (Atlanta: American Cancer Society, 2002).
Cite This Article
Philpott, Mary L. "American Cancer Society." New Georgia Encyclopedia. 11 August 2014. Web. 07 September 2021.
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