38. Yael Cohen

Founder of Fuck Cancer, How To Make People Talk

38. Yael Cohen
Cancer, this round has just begun. Photo by Josí댩 Mandojana

“No one talks about cancer until they have it,” laments Yael Cohen, founder of Vancouver-based Fuck Cancer. Her mother’s breast-cancer diagnosis, in 2009, inspired the 25-year-old to start a not-for-profit to remove the stigma from the Big C with two other Cs: celebrity and comedy.


“The Cancer Talk”

“We asked kids to talk to their parents about cancer risks, but they say, “This is awkward.” So she set up a system for them to send parents a recorded voice mail from celebrities, scheduling a time to have a big talk, then armed kids with info on how to talk about parents’ cancer risks. To prime them for it, “we thought of the most awkward conversations we’ve ever had,” she says–then had 17 celebs make videos.

“The Demikhov Project”

This Facebook game poses missions to raise awareness about cancer risks, from handing out flyers to organizing a flash mob. Participants post photos and videos, and move up levels as other gamers deem them effective educators. “Having 10,000 players as highly visible ambassadors is more valuable than a million people clicking buttons,” says Cohen.

“The Self-Exam”

In this contest (launching soon), people submit funny videos or scripts about doing or teaching oral, breast, testicular, and skin cancer self-exams. Later this year, the winner will make a video with Funny Or Die. “Self-exams are critical, but few know how to properly do them,” Cohen says. “So we threw out names to get people thinking about how they’d teach, say, Justin Bieber to give himself a testicular exam. We want them to learn, not just go on camera and grab their balls.”



    Speaks at 2010 Summit Series in Washington, D.C. and Miami

  • 2010

    Sole Canadian speaker at the White House Next Generation Leadership Conference

  • 2010

    Speaks at Clinton Global Initiative

  • 2010

    Presents at TED X

  • 2011

    Launches “The Cancer Talk,” a series of celebrity videos recounting their parents’ “sex talk” stories

  • 2012

    Fuck Cancer wins $25,000 in Mozilla Firefox Challenge by raising $117,000