'This is not about fat shaming': Cancer Research UK stands by anti-obesity campaign after backlash

Cancer Research UK says it is standing by its campaign that explicitly links obesity to cancer, after being accused on social media of 'body shaming'.

'This is not about fat shaming': Cancer Research UK stands by anti-obesity campaign after backlash

The campaign, which launched on Monday, encouraged people to guess the remaining letters in the word "obesity", when asked to identify the biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking.

The message was also relayed in fake cigarette packets, which were handed out to shoppers, that contained chips (see video below).

The creative for the campaign, which is running across radio, social and digital media, as well as poster ads, was developed by ad agency Anomaly.

Cancer Research UK said being obese or overweight is linked to 13 different types of cancer, but only 15% of people in the UK are aware of the connection. A pilot ad campaign in the West Midlands highlighting the issue in 2016 increased awareness of the link by 22 percentage points, the charity stated.

However, in a comment that has been picked up by several national media titles including The Telegraph and the Daily Mail, comedian Sofie Hagen started a backlash on social media, calling for the campaign to be banned:


She urged people to donate to other cancer charities that don’t "body shame":

A number of other social media users supported her stance:

— Bert (@bethanyrutter) March 1, 2018

Cancer Research stood by its campaign in tweeted responses to Hagen:

Others offered their support to Cancer Research:

A spokesperson for Cancer Research UK told Campaign's sister title PRWeek there would be no change to the charity’s plan to campaign around the link between obesity and cancer.

In a statement from the charity, professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, said: "The aim of the charity’s campaign is to raise awareness of the fact that obesity is the biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking.

"This is not about fat shaming. It is based on scientific evidence and designed to give important information to the public. Only 15% of people are aware that obesity is a cause of cancer. Cancer Research UK has a duty to put that message in the public domain."

A version of this story was first published by PRWeek