After a campaign, initiated by the Irish Cancer Society, was met with mixed reaction last month, the chief executive of the organisation has decided to address the criticism.

Referring to the 'I Want to Get Cancer' initiative, John McCormack this week extended his apologies to anyone who was affected by the advertising campaign, but maintained that the purpose of the initiative was to raise even further awareness of the regularity with which people are diagnosed in Ireland.

"Cancer takes far too many lives, and being reminded of its destruction can make people feel vulnerable and raw," he said. "But I would like to get one thing absolutely clear, and that is that this campaign was undertaken to save lives.That was our one and only motivation."

"While the merits of our campaign were being debated in the papers and on the airwaves, 150 people a day were hearing the words, 'You have cancer'. One person every three minutes – that's 40,000 people a year," he added.

Acknowledging the distress the campaign caused among members of the public, Mr McCormack extended his sympathies and acknowledged the impact the nature of the campaign had on many.

"My team and I also deal with some very difficult calls, People reached out to us as they were hurt by our campaign and it reignited a grief that was so very hard to bear," he said.

"This was often a direct consequence of the cancer diagnosis that the person, their friend or their family had received."

"On behalf of the society, I want to acknowledge the hurt that our campaign may have caused people. That was never our intention," he insisted.

"And to anyone that has lost a loved one to cancer, I am truly sorry," he said.