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Breast Cancer Stamp Extension Seen

Senate OKs sales for 6 more years; House expected to follow suit

SUNDAY, Sept. 30, 2001 (HealthDayNews) -- The U.S. Senate has taken the first step toward extending the life of the Breast Cancer Research stamp beyond next summer by voting to continue its sale for another six years, until July 2008.

The House of Representatives is expected to OK the extension as well, thereby ensuring continued sale of the stamp, which costs 40 cents instead of the 34-cent cost of a regular, first-class stamp.

Three hundred million breast cancer stamps have been sold since they were introduced in July 1998. The sales have generated $22 million in research money that went to the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program.

"The stamp has been a way that everyone has been able to contribute to breast cancer research. To parlay 5-cent contributions into $22 million is astronomical," says Betsy Mullen, president of WIN Against Breast Cancer, the non-profit organization that spearheaded the introduction of the stamp.

The money, Mullen says, has been used to supplement some novel research programs.

"We've been able to support grants that more than likely would not have been funded otherwise and research that is a bit more risk-taking but has a potentially higher yield in terms of outcome," Mullen adds.

Bob Riter is associate director of the Ithaca (N.Y.) Breast Cancer Coalition and served for two years as a consumer representative on panels that reviewed grant applications to be funded with research money from the stamp sales.

"The sales really have had a positive impact on various levels," he says. "They have helped to promote new ideas and new areas of research -- to think outside the box, to think creatively."

Also, Riter adds, buying stamps "makes people feel good. It gives them an intrinsic sense of contributing to something that's very valuable."

The breast cancer stamp, the first U.S. stamp ever sold to help raise funds, has proven to be a model for other national causes, Mullen says. Last week, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., introduced a bill to issue a fund-raising stamp to help the families of emergency workers who were killed in the World Trade Center terrorist attacks.

The breast cancer stamp has also heightened people's awareness of the disease, Mullen says.

There was one instance, she says, in which a mother sent her daughter some breast cancer stamps to use. The stamps reminded the daughter to get a mammogram, which resulted in an early diagnosis of breast cancer.

"Malignancies have been found, and lives have been saved," Mullen says.

What to Do: For further information about the Breast Cancer Research stamp, you can visit WIN Against Breast Cancer. To buy the Breast Cancer Research stamps, visit your local U.S. Post Office branch.

SOURCES: Interviews with Betsy Mullen, president and chief executive officer, WIN Against Breast Cancer, San Diego, Calif.; Bob Riter, associate director, Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance, Ithaca, N.Y.
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