Intended for healthcare professionals

Views And Reviews No Holds Barred

Margaret McCartney: We should stop fuelling anxiety

BMJ 2018; 361 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k2399 (Published 04 June 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;361:k2399

Re: Margaret McCartney: We should stop fuelling anxiety

World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) would like to clarify that our current advertising campaign, as referred to in Margaret McCartney’s article is centrally linked to our updated Cancer Prevention Recommendations, which stem from our newly-published cancer prevention report Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: a Global Perspective. The campaign’s core purpose is to give people information, and control, in order to make informed lifestyle choices to reduce their cancer risk.

With around one in six deaths annually worldwide now due to cancer; with 359,734 cases of cancer diagnosed in the UK alone in 2015; with cancer rates increasing globally, fuelled by overweight and obesity; and with so many of us today now bombarded with advertising and information about what we eat, WCRF has a responsibility to share, as effectively as possible, the results of our ongoing, global research – as detailed in our new report and in our Cancer Prevention Recommendations. This shows that governments have a critical role to play in creating enabling environments in which individuals can to take responsibility for their health – one of the most important ways we can reduce our risk, after not smoking, is to watch what we eat, our weight and how active we are.

We felt that this was a very important message to get across to people, but we were aware that so many charity health awareness campaigns fight for attention today; that the public are tired of hearing what often seems to them to be contradictory health messages, and that there is thus a risk that people are no longer listening.

With this in mind, WCRF created a user-friendly online cancer health check, to help people find out how their current lifestyle might be affecting their cancer risk, and to support them in any areas where they might want to change.

All the adverts in our current campaign, in national newspapers and on billboards plus an extensive Facebook campaign, connect to our new online cancer health check, where everyone can get advice and support.

The adverts, raising the question of whether we are making ourselves ‘attractive’ to cancer through what we eat and drink, are hard-hitting. They aim to make people look twice, subverting the sort of imagery we’re used to seeing on the front covers of glossy magazines, and juxtaposing fashion models ‘flirting’ with the types of food and drink that increase cancer risk. But, importantly, they also show how people can take some control, starting with using our online health check – which has proved extremely popular with visitors to our website since it was launched. They thus specifically improve knowledge, giving people the information they need to help reduce their cancer risk.

If you would like more information about reducing your cancer risk, why not try our new online health check or connect with us on Facebook or Twitter: http://wcrf-uk.org/cancertool

Competing interests: No competing interests

07 June 2018
Dr Kate Allen
Executive Director of Science and Public Affairs
World Cancer Research Fund International
22 Bedford Square, London, WC1B 3HH