Suzi Tobias (l) with her friends daughter Aileen Graef (r). Tobias spoke in the Capitol for prevention National Cancer Prevention Day and of the loss of her friend from cancer Aileen O’Brien.


It’s an honor and a pleasure for me to speak to you today.  Thank you for being here.  Thank you for taking an interest in helping to shift the cancer-paradigm to include prevention, risk reduction and for recognizing Cancer Prevention Day.  We are the lucky ones.  We have the ability and the opportunity to create an empowering approach to cancer for the future.  We are the visionaries who believe that we can create a culture of less—Less Cancer.

I got involved with Less Cancer after my best friend; Aileen Graef—whose daughter (Aileen) is here with us today—lost her fight with cancer last August.  It had been a long and difficult battle for her—but, unfortunately, not an uncommon one—as breast cancer is the

second leading cause of cancer death among women.

Aileen was my oldest and dearest friend—my bestie. Like all good friends, we always had each other’s back and helped each other to overcome many hurdles in life. Unfortunately, I could not help Aileen overcome Cancer.  And as I witnessed the devastation of the disease, her treatment—the mastectomy, several rounds of chemo, radiation, and the financial and emotional toll it took on she and her family—I felt helpless.

The only thing I could do was be there—to persuade her to eat… Be there—to administer medications… Be there—to pick her up after she fell…Be there—to bear witness to her pain, to comfort her, to encourage her, and to seethe in anger when the cancer had progressed so far that her body’s natural defense shut down as a last defense.

It is the most frustrating and disheartening feeling in the world to simply be there while your very best friend suffers in pain, suffers in treatment, and suffers in death.  It was at that point that I realized that the only way to beat cancer—to prevent ANYONE from ever having to experience the ravages of this disease is to stop it before it starts—if not for myself, for the memory of Aileen and the countless others who have succumbed to cancer.

We cannot simply treat cancer.  To invest all of our resources in treatment without prevention is a flawed approach—it’s defensive and reactive.  If we want Less cancer, we need an approach that is offensive and proactive.

According to the National Institute of Health: as many as two-thirds of all cancer cases are linked to environmental causes, and most of these are potentially preventable through lifestyle choices and practicing risk reduction.  This essentially means that we have the opportunity to reduce or eradicate up to two-thirds of all cancer.  Imagine, two-thirds Less Cancer.

How would we achieve such a goal?  We could clone Bill and send an army of ‘virtual Bills’ off on a Less Cancer crusade.  OR we can collectively build upon what Less Cancer has started and commit ourselves to:

RAISING AWARENESS of the concept of cancer prevention.  We cannot stand by passively and wait for cancer to happen.   We can EDUCATE and empower people on risk reduction strategies and offer them the tools necessary to make healthy lifestyle choices.  We can work to ENACT POLICIES that keep human health and cancer risk reduction in the forefront—for example, Congressman Israel’s excellent Cleaning Product Right-to-Know act. This was a critical piece of legislation that would have required the manufacturers of household chemicals to disclose all ingredients on the label.  It would have enabled consumers to make informed decisions about chemical exposure—a vital piece of the prevention puzzle.

We can work to find a way for business and industry to ally their products and practices with the needs and health of people without intruding on their ability to succeed.  We must find the balance between a healthy economy and our nation’s health.

Much has been done in the short time I have been involved with Less Cancer—most recently the Move Detroit Campaign and the establishment of the Less Cancer Fund with Children’s Hospital of Michigan.  This summer, Martha Fruehauf and I will be participating in the Less Cancer Challenge 300 by riding our bicycles 300 Miles from Port Huron, MI to Mackinac, MI to raise awareness and funds for Less Cancer.

It is our hope that in taking-on this challenge we can not only inspire others to become physically active and adopt healthy habits, but also honor those like Aileen, who are no longer with us.  We encourage you to participate in the online challenge individually or as a team.

Once again, thank you to Congressman Israel for sponsoring National Cancer Prevention Day.  And to all of you who have taken the time to be here today.   Prevention is the future and the future is LESS CANCER.