Organizations / June 29 ,2023

American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society (ACS) is a nationwide, community-based voluntary health organization that offers a variety of services to patients and their families. Headquartered in Atlanta, the ACS has state divisions and more than 3,400 local offices.

Who We Are

About your American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society is the leading cancer-fighting organization with a vision of ending cancer as we know it, for everyone. We are the only organization working to improve the lives of people with cancer and their families through advocacy, research, and patient support, to ensure everyone has an opportunity to prevent, detect, treat, and survive cancer.

We provide the support and guidance people impacted by cancer need at every step – from increasing access to screening at the local, state, and federal levels and advocating for more affordable health care to guiding patients and caregivers through our free 24/7 helpline and helping them get the treatment they need by offering free transportation and lodging. In addition, we fund and conduct research so people in every community have the opportunity to prevent, detect, treat and survive cancer.

How the American Cancer Society is organized

The American Cancer Society, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation governed by a single Board of Directors that is responsible for setting policy, establishing long-term goals, monitoring general operations, and approving the organizational outcomes and allocation of resources. The Board is composed entirely of volunteers from the medical and lay communities.

With a presence in more than 5,000 communities, the American Cancer Society is working to support people facing all types of cancer, in every community. Our regional and local offices mobilize communities in the cancer fight, delivering potentially lifesaving programs and services and raising crucial funds to support our mission.

How donations help fight cancer

The American Cancer Society is committed to our obligation to spend donor dollars wisely. Here’s a year-end glimpse at how your donations helped impact millions of lives – by the numbers. The most recent data is from the year ended December 2022.

Fulfilling our mission

Overall, in 2022, 81% of American Cancer Society resources were invested in patient support, discovery, and advocacy. The other 19% of resources were used to fund our management and general expenses, and fundraising expenses.

Resources allocated to program services (totaling 81% of American Cancer Society resources) include:

  • $354 million invested in patient support - We provide the latest, evidence-based cancer information; equip people to make healthy choices that can help reduce their cancer risk like eating right, staying active, and avoiding alcohol and tobacco; and develop guidelines for screening that can help detect certain cancers early and save lives. We are available 24/7 to help people find answers and resources, whether they want to understand their diagnosis and treatment options, learn how to cope with side effects, or find transportation or a place to stay when treatment is far from home. We provide information and support to cancer patients, caregivers, and survivors through online communities and one-on-one support.
  • $166 million invested in discovery - The American Cancer Society launches innovative, high-impact research to find more – and better – treatments, uncover factors that may cause cancer, and improve quality of life for people facing cancer. We fund research grants and conduct cancer research studies to help accelerate the pace of progress. We conduct equity-focused research to identify and understand issues related to cancer disparities in an effort to advance health equity among all communities.
  • $46 million invested in advocacy - Through our nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network SM (ACS CAN), we fight at all levels of government to demand change from our elected officials to build healthier communities, create safer workplaces, and provide greater, more equitable access to quality medical care.

Resources allocated to supporting services (totaling 19% of American Cancer Society resources) include:

  • $26 million used to fund management and general expenses (executive, financial, and administrative services needed to direct the efforts of the American Cancer Society)
  • $107 million spent on fundraising expenses (securing charitable financial support for American Cancer Society programs and services)


As a global grassroots force, the American Cancer Society relies on the strength of millions of dedicated volunteers. From leadership volunteers who set strategy and policy to community volunteers who organize special events and patient support programs, our volunteers, supported by professional staff, drive every part of our mission. Our diverse volunteer opportunities empower people from every community to play a role in saving lives, while fulfilling their own.

How the work of the American Cancer Society improves lives        

Our mission delivery efforts are focused on the critical areas of discovery, advocacy, and patient support. Despite the incredibly challenging start of the decade, we are still seeing progress being made in the fight against cancer.

As the nation’s leading cancer-fighting organization, the American Cancer Society (ACS) is committed to ending cancer as we know it, for everyone.

We are working to achieve this goal through targeted efforts that include investments in research, improving equitable access to care, urging people to resume cancer screening, and working to reduce long-standing disparities in cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment outcomes. Globally, we convene government and civil society stakeholders, share our expertise, invest resources, and design programs and initiatives to reduce the stark disparities in cancer outcomes in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs), particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Colombia.

Below are some examples of our efforts to reduce the cancer burden in every community:


The American Cancer Society is the largest funder of cancer research grants in the United States outside of the federal government, investing more than $5B over 75 years. We launch innovative, high-impact research to find more – and better – treatments, uncover factors that may cause cancer, and improve the quality of life for people facing cancer.

Cancer Prevention

We fund and conduct research to discover how people can take steps to reduce their cancer risk, and provide information on the causes of cancer – from environment to lifestyle choices to genetics, and more. We work to encourage healthy lifestyle choices – like avoiding tobacco, eating healthy, and being physically active – that could help to eliminate approximately 50% of deaths from cancer.

Cancer Screening and Early Detection

We publish cancer screening guidelines to help people detect cancer early, when it may be easier to treat.

Access to Care

We believe no one should die from cancer because they cannot get the quality care they need. We are working to increase screening and reduce cancer risk for underserved communities and boost our investment in our transportation and lodging programs to help patients receive treatment and support.

Patient and Caregiver Services

We provide guidance and support to patients and caregivers at every step of their cancer journey. From free rides to treatment, places to stay when treatment is far from home, and our live 24/7 helpline, we’re here for everyone with cancer questions and concerns, when and where they need us.


We are transforming the care and long-term health of the over 18 million cancer survivors in the US through innovative ways to mitigate the harmful long-term effects from cancer and cancer treatment.

We’re making progress

By taking what we’ve learned through research and translating it into action, we’ve contributed to a 32% decrease in the overall US cancer death rate since 1991. That means that we helped avoid nearly 3.5 million cancer deaths during that time.

To learn more about our Board of Directors and how we use our donor dollars to move our mission forward, download our Annual Report and other available financial statements and forms.


Making a difference

The American Cancer Society directly and measurably improves the lives of people with cancer and their families. Thanks to those who generously invest in our mission, we are working to end cancer as we know it for everyone, by ensuring that all people have a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer.

Learn about the impact we are making on the cancer burden, and on the lives of those impacted by the disease. We are dedicated to using every single donor dollar wisely to fund and provide the critical programs and services that people count on every day.



Our History

The early years

The American Cancer Society was founded in 1913 by 10 doctors and 5 laypeople in New York City. It was called the American Society for the Control of Cancer (ASCC). At that time, a cancer diagnosis meant near-certain death. Rarely mentioned in public, this disease was steeped in fear and denial. Doctors sometimes did not tell their patients they had cancer, and patients often did not tell their friends and families that they had been diagnosed with it.

The Society’s founders knew they had to raise public awareness about cancer if progress was to be made against this disease. Despite the enormity of their task, our founders and their colleagues set about writing articles for popular magazines and professional journals; publishing Campaign Notes, a monthly bulletin of cancer information; and recruiting doctors throughout the country to help educate the public.

It was in these early years that the Society first used its now-iconic Sword of Hope symbol, which today is part of the organization’s logo. The sword came from a 1928 nationwide poster contest sponsored by the ASCC and the New York City Cancer Committee. George E. Durant of Brooklyn won the contest, receiving a first prize of $500. He selected the sword to express the crusading spirit of the cancer control movement. The twin-serpent caduceus, which forms the handle of the sword, emphasizes the medical and scientific nature of the Society’s work. Classically, twined serpents represent healing of the sick and creativity of the healthy.

Over the past 100 years, the logo has changed many times. The current American Cancer Society logo presents a contemporary, powerful, and cohesive entity. The trapezoidal shape with the angled edge suggests forward movement, aspiration, and growth. The overall design creates the image of a flag being carried forth toward victory. This symbol is intended to unite people in the common goal to save lives from cancer.

The Women’s Field Army

In 1936, Marjorie G. Illig, an ASCC field representative and chair of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs Committee on Public Health, made an extraordinary suggestion. She proposed creating a legion of volunteers whose sole purpose was to wage war on cancer. The Women’s Field Army, as this organization came to be called, was an enormous success. Its recruits donned khaki uniforms, complete with insignia of rank and achievement, and went out into the streets to raise money and educate the public.

In 1935, there were 15,000 people active in cancer control throughout the United States. At the close of 1938, there was about 10 times that number. More than anything else, it was the Women’s Field Army that moved the American Cancer Society to the forefront of voluntary health organizations.

New directions

In 1945, the ASCC was reorganized as the American Cancer Society. It was the beginning of a new era for the organization. World War II was over – the single greatest threat to modern democracy had been defeated – and the nation could at last focus its attention on the public health enemy at home. Many believed it was time for another bold move.

In 1946, philanthropist Mary Lasker and her colleagues met this challenge, helping to raise more than $4 million for the Society – $1 million of which was used to establish and fund the Society’s groundbreaking research program. With the aid and assistance of dedicated volunteers like Lasker and Elmer Bobst, our research program began to bear fruit. In 1947, we also began our famous cancer signals campaign, a public education effort about the signs and symptoms of cancer.

Making progress

Around the same time the cancer signals campaign began, Dr. Sidney Farber, one of the Society’s first research grantees, achieved the first temporary cancer remission in a child with acute leukemia using the drug aminopterin, thus opening the modern era of chemotherapy for cancer treatment. It was just the beginning of how scientists the American Cancer Society supported early in their careers would go on to make great leaps in understanding and stopping cancer. 

Society-funded researchers have contributed to nearly every major cancer research breakthrough we’ve seen in the almost 70 years since the Society’s research program began. They’ve helped establish the link between cancer and smoking; demonstrated the effectiveness of the Pap test; developed cancer-fighting drugs and biological response modifiers such as interferon; dramatically increased the cure rate for childhood leukemia; proven the safety and effectiveness of mammography; and so much more. Since 1946, the American Cancer Society has invested more than $5 billion in research, recognizing and providing the funding 49 researchers needed to get started and go on to win the Nobel Prize.

Expanding our reach

In the 1960s and 70s, the American Cancer Society began to expand its reach as an organization, working even harder to involve all sectors in its efforts to fight back against the disease.

In the 60s, the Society was instrumental in the development of the Surgeon General’s report on the link between smoking and cancer when early Society-sponsored studies confirmed the connection. This upheaval in the perception of smoking laid the groundwork for tobacco control progress – and for the corresponding lives saved – that continues today. 

Our advocacy later contributed to the passage of the National Cancer Act in 1971, which granted special funds and authority to expand the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and revolutionized the war on cancer. With the development of the NCI, the American Cancer Society also had to adapt to a new role – that of filling in the gaps of the federal government’s focus in areas such as cancer prevention and education.

Likewise, as National Institutes of Health funding for young investigators has diminished, the Society has allocated more research grants to that generation, helping promising young medical researchers enter the cancer field. Today, the American Cancer Society is a global leader in the fight against cancer, working tirelessly to save lives by helping people stay well and get well, by finding cures, and by fighting back against the disease.

The Society is proud to have contributed to the work that has resulted in a 29% drop in the overall cancer death rate in the United States. That drop equates to 2.9 million fewer cancer deaths between 1991 and 2017. Progress continues and is currently estimated at 500 fewer cancer deaths each day.


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