How the world marked World Cancer Day 2017

7 February 2017

A look at how the world came together to show their support in the fight against cancer 

This past Saturday 4 February, people from all over the world took part in World Cancer Day, with well over 800 activities taking place in over 100 countries on every continent.

Under this year’s campaign theme of ‘We can. I can’, individuals, organisations, cities, communities, schools and governments came together to raise awareness of one of the world’s most deadly diseases; from hosting flash mobs in town squares, free cancer screenings in clinics, record breaking attempts on the beach, conferences with experts and fundraisers by schools and companies.

The Day also raised awareness online and in the press, generating over 420,000 tweets, and more than 1,000 Thunderclap supporters creating a reach of over 7 million.

Here is a look at some of the Day’s highlights from around the world in 2017.

Governments pledge action

Governments around the world marked World Cancer Day by pledging to take action in the fight against cancer, including the Ministries of Health in Canada, Germany, the Maldives, Poland, Samoa and Tanzania.

“Oncology centres across Poland on Saturday hosted open days designed to raise awareness of health risks and of support available for cancer sufferers.” - Radio Poland

Meanwhile, UN Agencies, including the United Nations, UN Aids and the World Health Organisation (WHO) used social media to show their support. Ahead of World Cancer Day, WHO took the opportunity to release new figures on cancer and new guidance with the aim of improving the chances of survival for people living with cancer.

Cities light up

Cities around the world also signalled their commitment to the global challenge of cancer by lighting up the major landmarks in the World Cancer Day colours of orange and blue. Thanks to the American Cancer Society and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, landmarks from the Empire State Building, New York City to the Jet d’eau in Geneva, and across Canada: from the east coast of Niagara Falls and The CN Tower, Toronto, to the west coast of Vancouver’s Canada Place Sails all lit up their city skylines.

Cancer Organisations and Charities

Many cancer organisations and societies also chose the Day to fundraise and create awareness within their communities.

In New Zealand, The Cancer Society of New Zealand raised awareness with a stall in the capital’s city centre, while in Australia, Cancer Australia hosted a sport-themed staff morning tea as well as shared key messages across social media. In Mumbai, India, The Max Foundation organised a book reading for children at the Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital, and shared the story of a group of cancer survivors and caregivers.

Meanwhile, the Cancer Society in Uganda partnered with the American Cancer Society to launch patient support and education materials for caregivers and hospital workers. Europe also witnessed a lot of activity, including a number of prevention and healthy lifestyle activities in schools across Portugal organised by the Liga Portuguesa Contra o Cancro. The League Against Cancer Prague hosted a conference on head and neck cancer prevention, while the Institute Jean Godinot in France opened their doors to the public for an open house giving the opportunity for the visiting public to hear from scientists, professors and researchers on cancer, innovative treatments and access to care.


In Saudi Arabia, the Zahra Breast Cancer Association organised a workshop to collect messages for a video which was shared on social media. FEMAMA (The Brazilian Federation of Philanthropic Breast Health Institution) also used social media to raise awareness, challenging their Facebook followers to post a photo of themselves practising sport.

In South Africa, the sport themed continued with Cancer Association of South Africa hosted a series of sport events across the country, including a fun walk and run, yoga on the beach, and a golf day.

Support through Sport

With this year’s World Cancer Day urging everyone to get active to help combat cancer, sports fans, organisations and personalities took part in the Support through Sport initiative and used their voice and influence to help spread the message.

Sports clubs and organisations all over the world threw their support behind the initiative, including the ice hockey teams, The Canadiennes, Belfast Giants, and Calgary Flames; Football Clubs, FC Porto and Sunderland; Rugby’s Sydney sevens, the French Tennis Federation, the International Paralympic Committee, and World Wrestling Entertainment.

Sport heroes including Olympic diver Pandelala Rinong, rugby player Dylan Hartley, boxer Joseph Joyce, NFL players Rodney McLeod from the Philadelphia Eagles, as well as cricketers, Rohit Sharma and Michael Clarke.  

But, it wasn’t just the professionals who got involved. People everywhere of all ages and all abilities got active and took part in the Support through Sport initiative by taking a photo of themselves with the #WeCanICan hashtag and sharing it on social media.  


A photo posted by Nancy Funk (@fun_with_a_k) on

World Cancer day aims to save millions of preventable deaths each year by raising awareness and education about the disease, and pressing governments and individuals across the world to take action. The detailed World Cancer Day 2017 impact report will be released over the coming months. For more information, visit 

About World Cancer Day 2017

World Cancer Day takes place every year on 4 February and is the single initiative under which the world can unite to raise the profile of cancer in a positive and inspiring way.

Coordinated by UICC, World Cancer Day is this year taking place under the tagline ‘We can. I can.’ and explores how everyone – as a collective or as individuals – can do their part to reduce the global burden of cancer. Just as cancer affects everyone in different ways, everyone has the power to take action to reduce the impact that cancer has. World Cancer Day is a chance to reflect on what you can do, make a pledge and take action.

Last update: 
Friday 7 June 2019