Scottish Cancer Prevention Network | Putting Prevention First

Medical student: What the 12 codes against cancer taught me about cancer prevention

During first year of medical school, I walked in to my nutrition tutorial eating chocolate buttons and I was told off by the person undertaking the session. I proceeded to place the chocolate in my bag, listen to how we need to eat our “five a day” and minimise sugar intake and then left the class to finish off my chocolate. During the first three years of medical school, we are taught about a long list of conditions that result from an unhealthy lifestyle. This comes in contrast with the very little teaching we get on lifestyle modification. So, if my teaching on this topic is limited, how am I expected to embrace this lifestyle myself and subsequently deliver it effectively to my patients? Continue reading “Medical student: What the 12 codes against cancer taught me about cancer prevention”


Save Water, Drink Kombucha

I think most of us are aware by now that alcohol is harmful, in fact a survey in 2013 showed that 84% of Scots thought alcohol causes either a ‘great deal’ or ‘quite a lot of harm in Scotland.’ They’re correct to think this, however what may be less well known is the link between alcohol and cancer. Alcohol is carcinogenic, which means it causes cancer and in 2015 more than one in four alcohol related deaths were from cancer in Scotland. It is important to understand that no amount of alcohol is ‘safe’ and no type of alcohol is better or worse than another. Additionally drinking alcohol increases the risk of cancer whether you drink it all in one go or a bit at a time. Therefore for cancer prevention it’s best not to drink any alcohol. Continue reading “Save Water, Drink Kombucha”

Alcohol – Finding the off switch #SoberOctober

In casual conversation amongst a bunch of friends I recently heard three accounts of people (all aged over 65) who changed their thoughts about drinking… so I asked them to retell their stories for our blog. In sober October I find these tales of inspiration, and a reminder that moving to being a non drinker may well solve many of the challenges about drinking limits.

Here is Margaret’s journey…. Continue reading “Alcohol – Finding the off switch #SoberOctober”

Healthy Halloween

Because without doubt, one of the scariest things about Halloween is the amount of sugar consumed…

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In 2016, 65% of people in Scotland were overweight or obese and strong evidence shows that the consumption of processed foods high in sugar is a cause of weight gain, overweight and obesity. The main sources are confectionary (chocolate and sweets) and sugary drinks. On average, adults in Scotland consume 14.1% of their daily intake from sugar, when the recommended upper intake is only 5%. This is a contributory factor in more people being overweight- toddlers, children and adults!

Being overweight or obese increases the risk of 13 different types of cancers, so to reduce this risk we need to aim for healthy choices, like lowering the amount of added sugar in our diets. 

Continue reading “Healthy Halloween”

A Sobering Tale

During Sober October we are continuing our series on people who decided to think twice about drinking.

Here is Jim’s tale:

 “I am 74 years of age and I retired from a university post in  2004. Over the last few years I have become increasingly aware that my short-term memory was causing problems, most notably in remembering names, but in many other areas as well. Frequently I could not recall in any detail what I was doing just a few days ago, and sometimes as little as one day ago. My wife suggested that a visit to a GP was necessary and that happened 4 months ago.


 I described my symptoms in detail. The conversation then moved on to my alcohol consumption which, if I’m being brutally honest, I’d consistently lied about in all of my past health questionnaires. And so I came clean and I confessed to a regular intake of 1 or 2  beers per day, plus half a bottle of wine, with possibly more over some weekends, depending on social factors. This had been happening on and off for years. I must add at this point that I am still very physically fit. I played squash x3 weekly for years, I’ve climbed all of the munros over many years (probably 500 plus ascents in total) and  Everest and Annapurna base camps, Mt.Killimanjaro summit, and lots of alpine climbing. I golf 3-4 times per week, I walk daily and still climb munros. Having got that off my chest, back to my memory (or, more accurately, the lack of). The doctor had listened carefully to a potted version of the above before explaining that my memory loss was consistent with a condition called Korsakoff”s syndrome (Google it for a complete medical explanation; it’s very sobering….. if you’ll forgive the awful pun!).

I’d never considered myself an alcoholic but the evidence suggested otherwise, and I had no choice other than to fully accept it and to do something about it. Accordingly I immediately ceased drinking any alcohol for 2 months following the diagnosis and now, 4 months on, I drink a little socially one or two days a week, but always well under the government’s guidelines. Do I feel any better? It’s difficult at this stage to tell but I’m advised by my doctor that I’m in for the long haul and there are no shortcuts.” 


Changing lifestyles… you are never too old

During Sober October we are continuing our series on people who decided to think twice about drinking.

Like many mainly retired people, after I ceased the very active way of life associated with my full-time work, my weight gradually increased over the years. This was in spite of leading a fairly active lifestyle, including swimming nearly most mornings and lots of walking. I also thought that ate reasonably healthily – including the recommended five portions of fruit and veg per day. 


However, my real problem was that I really enjoyed red wine and my daily intake had increased and increased and increased over the years. And, of course, red wine must be accompanied by a copious intake of crisps, nuts, and oatcakes, spread thickly with butter and topped with large amounts of cheese.  I made the usual excuses: I enjoy drinking wine since it is relaxing and sociable and alleviates stress, I can certainly afford it, I don’t have to get up and go to work anymore and I don’t need to drive much since I have a bus pass.  And, the wonderful rationale of: well, I see all these old guys like me in the gym dressing room, and I am not nearly as overweight as some of them! Continue reading “Changing lifestyles… you are never too old”

GoSober for October… and beyond

I was so pleased to be reminded that October (like DryJanuary) means we can legitimately say that we are not drinking and it is “acceptable”. No teasing, no tempting, no tasting offered.

alcohol-bar-beer-1283219 Continue reading “GoSober for October… and beyond”


Are you sitting standing comfortably? Then we can begin…

A basic definition of sedentary behaviour is any waking activity performed while sitting or reclining which involves no noticeable effort. This means your heart and breathing rates are not raised above a resting level. There is a body of research to suggest that sedentary behaviour increases the risk of cancer-the World Cancer Research Fund report states that long periods of uninterrupted sitting increases the risk of weight gain, and so cancer risk. They argue that sedentary behaviour may contribute to a cellular micro-environment that’s conducive to cancer development. Continue reading “#SitLessMoveMore”

Top 10 tips to #SitLessMoveMore at work

We all know we should try to be active regularly to stay healthy – it is recommended we do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week. We can do this by walking, going to a gym class or taking part in a team sport. It is also recommended we try to reduce and break up our sitting time. It is important to think about physical activity and sitting separately to maximise the benefits for our health. People fall into four categories when it comes to their physical activity and sedentary behaviours: Continue reading “Top 10 tips to #SitLessMoveMore at work”

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