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Legislative History

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Building 6 in 1939, which was the National Cancer Institute's first building.

Credit: National Cancer Institute

Recognizing that cancer touches the lives of every person in our nation, the United States has a long history of advocacy and legislation that aims to minimize the burden of this disease. Since the 1930s, treating and preventing cancer has been a priority of our federal government. The National Cancer Act of 1937 was the first time Congress officially designated, or appropriated, funds to a non-infectious disease. This act established the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which remains the primary federal agency dedicated to addressing research and training needs for the cause, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. It called upon NCI to assist and promote cancer research at other public and private institutions, a call which continues to drive NCI’s mission today.

NCI became part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 1944, under the Public Health Service Act. Amendments to this act added to the activities of NCI, including the establishment of the National Cancer Advisory Board, cancer control programs, information dissemination, cancer centers, the President’s Cancer Panel, construction authority, and training authority. The National Cancer Act of 1971, which revised the sections of the Public Health Service Act related to NCI, established NCI as we know it today.

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