Georgia May Jagger and her #SmearforSmear image that she shared on Instagram

Celebrities and public figures are playing a vital role in raising awareness for cancer through various social media campaigns. These campaigns aim to encourage the public to take a proactive approach for checking signs for cancer.

Cancer awareness campaigns

With the help of their millions of fans, celebrities have been able to raise millions to support cancer research. Here are some of the examples:

  • #FeelingNuts, launched in 2014 encouraged men to regularly feel their testicles for abnormalities by posting pictures of their ‘crotch grab’. Jamie Oliver, William Shatner and Hugh Jackman, along with other famous names participated in the challenge. For more information on #FeelingNuts, check out the campaign’s official website.
  • #SmearForSmear was recently launched by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust after new figures revealed more than one million failed to attend smear tests last year. The campaign encourages women to smudge lipstick across their face and post a selfie. Rita Ora, Georgia May Jagger and Suki Waterhouse have supported the campaign through various social media platforms.
  • #nomakeupselfie campaign became viral last year and managed to raise £8 million for Cancer Research UK in just six days. Many public figures participated in the challenge of posting their makeup free faces and encouraged the public to donate money for cancer research.

1409759921_angelina-jolie-zoom“The Angelina Effect”

“Knowledge is power,” stated Angelina Jolie, before deciding to have an Oophorectomy, ovary removal surgery, after discovering there was a 50% risk that she might develop ovarian cancer. Her decision comes two years after her double mastectomy, when she had both breasts removed in order to avoid the 87% possibility of developing breast cancer.

Medical researchers have called this increase in demand for genetic screening for hereditary forms of cancer “The Angelina Effect”. “It is not easy to make these decisions. But it is possible to take control and tackle head-on any health issue. You can seek advice, learn about the options and make choices that are right for you.” Angelina Jolie Pitt: Diary of a Surgery


This May is skin cancer awareness month. The first Monday of the month was named Melanoma Monday by the American Academy of Dermatology to raise awareness for the deadliest form of skin cancer. Jennifer Garner is one of many public figures that encourages the public, particularly young women, to wear sunscreen and look after their skin.

Celebrities creating “teachable moments”

These campaigns show the extreme potential of social media and the important role it can play, especially with celebrity backing, in terms of modern methods of science communication.

“The evidence suggests that these events act as ‘teachable moments’ where the public is more receptive to cancer prevention and detection messages than is normally the case. As cancer communicators, we should take advantage of the opportunity that these events create,” said Seth M. Noar, PhD, associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.