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Vice President Joe Biden, the Obama administration’s point person on advancing cancer research, traveled to the Vatican on April 29, 2016, to discuss technological progress in medicine.
During that speech, Biden said, "In the United States alone we lose more than 3,000 people a day to cancer." A few days later, Biden’s office posted the text of that speech on Medium.
When we looked into this statistic, we found a discrepancy.
In the American Cancer Society’s "Cancer Facts & Figures 2016" report, the group wrote that "about 595,690 Americans are expected to die of cancer in 2016, which translates to about 1,630 people per day." That’s roughly half of what Biden said.
When we contacted Biden’s office, spokeswoman Meghan Dubyak said the 3,000 figure refers to the daily number of cancer deaths in the Americas as a whole — not just in the United States — in 2012, the most recent year for which the World Health Organization has full data. We were able to verify that statistic here; officially, the number is 1.3 million annually, or just over 3,000 per day.
Biden’s office has changed the text in the Medium article to "more than 1,600" during the course of our reporting.
They also inserted the following correction: "*The initial number provided for daily cancer deaths in the United States was 3,000 — which is roughly the number of daily cancer deaths across the broader Americas."
Biden said in his Vatican speech that "in the United States alone we lose more than 3,000 people a day to cancer."
Actually, that’s the number of deaths for the Americas as a whole, not for just the United States. After we contacted Biden’s office, they changed the number listed in the Medium article to the correct number, "more than 1,600."
While we laud speedy corrections, it is PolitiFact’s policy to rate statements on the Truth-O-Meter in their initial version, which, in this case, could not be corrected in its original setting, a high-profile international speech. So we rate the original statement False.
Joe Biden, "What I Said at the Vatican About the World’s Efforts to Fight Cancer" (post in Medium), May 2, 2016
American Cancer Society, "Cancer Facts & Figures 2016," accessed May 6, 2016
Pan-American Health Organization, cancer webpage, accessed May 6, 2016
Email interview with Meghan Dubyak, spokesman for Joe Biden, May 4, 2016
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