Scottish Cancer Prevention Network | Putting Prevention First

A little boogy goes a long way

There’s still four days until payday and my, has it been a long month. We’re just about coping with Dry January (but only because we can’t afford booze anyway), feeling sluggish and it’s raining cats and dogs outside. My desperate disco playlist sounds quietly in the background, fighting against the much louder, more aggressive winter storm, as we attempt a tediously slow game of Scrabble in our cramped North London studio flat.


I give up all hope and start melting into my chair as he lays down his second six-letter word across a triple (“Only 81 points” he mutters), when I hear Chic’s crowd-pleasing, game-changing words across the room,
Any time, any place,
Dancing helps relieve the pain.
Soothes your mind, makes you happy again.
Listen to those dancing feet!
Close your eyes and let go!”.
The perfect excuse to end a game I’d lost a long time ago (as with every game of Scrabble I play)! I reach across to the speaker, turn the volume up and begin furiously throwing shapes across the room as Chic chants what we all want to hear: “Everybody dance!”.  He’s forgotten about his score already! He’s on the dancefloor with me, and we’re doing box steps and twirls in unison. After a few repeats of the tune, we’ve mastered a pretty solid routine.

We film it, share it and propose a dance off.


A little boogy goes a long way. We challenge you to try it.





Ob_s__y is a cause of cancer… communications

Let us be clear excess body weight is associated with 13 cancers including breast, bowel and kidney (link). And this message needs to be communicated because we know that public awareness of the risk of overweight and obesity are low (link).

Well, CRUK has certainly stirred up a hornet’s nest with their poster campaign on calling Obesity a cause of cancer. How uncomfortable for us all … given we are so used to posters of happy children eating junk food, big burger smiles, strong girder drinks and smiling supplement users.

Strong, and blunt messages about cancer just aren’t part of our warm and safe marketing landscape. The objections came fast and furious and even from unexpected quarters…. the comedian bellowing loud about ‘fat shaming’ all over twitter and echoed by the BBC, the Guardian journalist Christina Patterson (book due out soon) about the importance of state of mind versus science and risk and Margaret McCartney in the BMJ who flags how people with cancer have felt blamed and the potential harms caused by this campaign.

So four issues come to mind:

  1. Would CRUK have been wiser to use a more visual scientific image with some key mechanisms flagged. The Cancer Council WA used very large and very memorable posters that got right to the meat of the matter (see “grabbale gut” image below). In addition, our work from talking to women and alcohol gained credibility when some insight is given to the scientific mechanisms.
  2. What short memories we have. All those vivid posters about the harms of smoking were so clear (see images below). Collectively we all know smoking is bad health news….and the aim of those campaigns was never to outlaw smokers or create guilt but raise awareness and they succeeded!
  3. Thinking positively… there is increasing evidence that decreasing excess weight can REDUCE risk of cancer. What we desperately need now are environments that support and help us to be active and market healthy foods and healthy portions.
  4. Finally, the health risks associated with obesity are too big to ignore. There is a duty of care to communicate what the experts have identified to the public. We do not a believe in keeping science secrets- but we need to shame the causes of obesity not the people who suffer.



Professor Annie S. Anderson

Professor Bob Steele



Men dance too… (at any age)

Far too little is written about men’s health and cancer prevention on our blogs- but that is about to change! Higher levels of physical activity reduce the risks of several chronic diseases including bowel cancer as well as obesity related cancers.


Being active in everyday life is our motto- whether dog walking, stair climbing, cycling or other pursuits.   This month we are highlighting the theme #justDANCE as an easy indoor/outdoor way to be physically active. No sport, just movement (preferably with music) – alone or in company, structured or free form and possible at any age from tots to the tottering.


Dance is for boys and men too – something often forgotten. We all know about Billy Elliot but, back in the early 90’s when my son ( from the ages of 5 to 13) was a competitive highland dancer this pursuit was definitely considered more than a little odd by his rugby playing mates. At 30+ he still dances and in fact reels very well but what about older men? Lots of opportunities for gym sessions and walking football but dancing?

I recommend an excellent website on older men dancing ( written by Damain Killen – a 72 year old male dancer/mover. He writes that for seven years he has attended dance classes and performed  as a  member of a semi-professional dance company and notes that he is usually the only male in the class and was the  only male member of the company. He aims to encourage more older men to take up the  opportunities that exist to develop and to perform and to express themselves through dance. He reminds us that this is something that has happened throughout history and it happens now around the world in different cultures. What is that stops men from dancing  and what can be done about it?

Damian is keen to hear from older men who are dancing, particularly if those involved in contemporary dance and performance anywhere in the world and from any dance projects that are targeted at men. What can we learn from each other about making dance attractive and satisfying for men?

Well here are some comments from our SCPN country dancing friends (all male, all over 60 ++)  and we welcome any comments from men participating in other dance forms…… #justDANCE

“Of course men dance too because it’s a great physical and mental work out – far more enjoyable than the gym.

At the same time you meet loads of sociable, friendly people and have lots of fun – the best you can have with your clothes on!

Plus, men are often in short supply so they usually receive a warm welcome from the ladies …..”

At 70, Hip-hop, Gangnam or Break Dancing is now a generation or two way out of my league!  However, Scottish Country Dancing is well within, not only giving my body gentle exercise but if a courtly Strathspey then it’s a very genteel workout.  Not only am I exercising those increasingly creaky limbs I’m exercising the mind by trying to remember some quite often intricate and convoluted routines.  As Poirot would say “keeping those little grey cells working”.  Now just because I’m writing about the virtues of Scottish Country Dancing, don’t for one moment think I might be some twinkle-toed aficionado………..that I am most definitely not!  I often refer to myself as the ‘Dunce of Dancing’ and I have been observed to be like a rabbit caught in the headlights!  I don’t (can’t) do the fancy light footed steps of SCD, achievement for me is defined as getting through a dance ‘route’ without going too wrong but importantly not sending everyone else wrong!  Hey, I’m a man whose dance repertoire consisted of  ‘Dad Dancing’ to 60’s favourites, Scottish Country Dancing is relatively new to me


All my life I have enjoyed dancing, the only trouble was I was never any good at it.  As I got older some of my innate shyness slowly disappeared and I did not have to spend ages summoning up the courage to ask a pretty girl for a dance.  However I was still hampered by not being able to find a form of dancing which suited me.  I needed something reasonably complex, to keep my ageing brain active, physically demanding (but not too demanding) to keep myself fit and my joints supple, and something where the finer points of grace and elegance were not of primary importance.

And then I discovered Scottish Country Dancing.  Now if you are a pro, and belong to the ‘Royal Scottish Country Dancing Association’, then grace and elegance are of prime importance.  But to us lesser mortals the key is just trying to be in the right place at the right time.  To do this you need to be able to think on your feet and be physically agile.  In addition, this type of dancing lends its self very well to socialising and making new friends.  So what could be better for the man who used embarrass his kids by ‘dad dancing’ and any potential partners by treading on their feet. So if you want to keep fit and active, physically and mentally, just get out there and dance. 


Dancing was never very important to me until I left my native Scotland and settled in Nottingham in 1990 where  I joined a Scottish Country Dancing group and discovered a whole new world that has held me ever since. It’s difficult to define what it is about dancing, and Scottish Country Dancing in particular, that is so captivating, but I suppose it is a combination of movement, grace, team working, companionship and plain good fun.  It also has the advantage of not requiring a high level of skill to participate fully, but at the same time it leaves infinite room for improvement. In other words, anyone can quickly find their own level and derive enjoyment and sense of achievement from being part of a dance group.   


Being a dancer can be a bit like being an addicted runner – the “highs” you get from dancing make you keep wanting to come back for more, and the sense of well-being combined with increased fitness make dancing an intensely satisfying pursuit.  It also makes you acutely aware of the level of skill displayed by professional dancers, and since becoming a (very) amateur dancer I have developed a keen interest in ballet and modern dance. So, although I could never aspire to the dizzy heights of professional dance, I find it really inspirational and yet another world has been opened up to me which I would strongly recommend to anyone who enjoys dancing at any level.

In other words #justDANCE



My career as a dancer

This month we are continuing our theme of #Beingphysicallyactiveineverydaylife as recommended by the European Code against Cancer.  Walking is still my first choice – every day I strive to attain 10,000 steps but there are other ways to be active and increasingly as I watch my neighbours aged 70+ glide around in the local dance sessions I realise how much fun physical activity is without any sense of sport of competition. So, I thought I should share with you my career as a dancer!

Imagination, music and a desire to move…. Always there, always waiting for the moment…

Posing as a ballet dancer

Age approximately 6yrs old, posing for a rare camera shot in my wee kilt and posing as a ballet dancer- I remember it so well, hands poised, head lifted… graceful and beautiful. Funnily enough that’s not quite what the photo shows, but in my head I was a dancing star just like the dancing star my mother must have been in her photo “getting ready for the dance”. Continue reading “My career as a dancer”

Shape the future of food in Scotland

Food and drinks – their composition, the way in which we eat them, the way they are processed, the food patterns we consume are important for cancer prevention. The European Code against cancer highlights three main areas:

Have a healthy diet:

  • Eat plenty of whole grains, pulses, vegetables and fruits.
  • Limit high-calorie foods (foods high in sugar or fat) and avoid sugary drinks.
  • Avoid processed meat; limit red meat and foods high in salt

Yes what a long way we Scots are from achieving these food choices or anything like our Scottish dietary goals. 

Food concerns aren’t just health they span food security, poverty, equity and climate change to name a few topics and in Scotland we have an opportunity to get our views on the table.

Here Celia Nyssens from Nourish Scotland encourages us to get round the table and get our voices heard.

The SCPN are scheduling ours for next months…. All voices need to be heard

Prof Annie S. Anderson

Photo Credit: Scottish Food Coalition

For 10 weeks, until 15th April, the Scottish Food Coalition is inviting everyone in Scotland with an interest in food to do Kitchen Table Talks and shape the Good Food Nation agenda.

The Scottish Government will consult on a Good Food Nation Bill in 2018. This Bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address some of the big challenges we are facing. From food insecurity, to diet-related diseases, to agricultural pollution, climate change, and biodiversity decline; our food system is not working for most people, or for our planet. Continue reading “Shape the future of food in Scotland”

Dogs protecting humans and other health promoting tails

I was fast asleep and just 3 years old when the house caught fire. My sister was snoring the night away and my parents, exhausted from clearing out the final remnants of their home prior to heading south, were also doggo. But luckily, Tessie the black and white collie had a built in smoke detector and a loud bark and woke us all in time to be rescued from the flames. I owe my life to that dog.


We have much to thank dogs for in everyday life too. Our beloved four-leggies bring us comfort, joy and companionship, but perhaps we are unaware of some of the other benefits they provide.

At our annual conference last week, Professor Nanette Mutrie talked about the Lassie effect (Westgarth et al, 2015 ) explaining that Dogs can help us become and maintain physically active by providing: Continue reading “Dogs protecting humans and other health promoting tails”

World Cancer Day #WeCanICan

It is #WorldCancerDay this Sunday, 4th February 2018.

Here at SCPN Prevention First is our strap line and our starting point for informing, supporting and advocating for cancer prevention activities in Scotland. We live in a country which has the capacity to make a difference to thousands of people at risk of developing cancer by supporting societal change and individual action. Scotland has exemplar cancer screening programmes and a National Health Service that provides first rate treatments free of cost here and now in 2018.


Looking forward, projections for cancer incidence in Scotland1 between 2008/12 to 2023/27 predict an overall increase of 33% with a 27.5% increase in breast, 55% increase in uterus and 49.9% increase in cancer of the pancreas. How long will we be able to afford the cancer treatment budget? How will the world afford cancer treatment – a disease found in every part of the globe including countries with little health budget, very great social inequalities and no free health care. When will governments invest in prevention first? Continue reading “World Cancer Day #WeCanICan”


It’s February. 

I’ve done DRY January, in fact I’ve done it several times! The third time I did it I went on to Fizzy February – most unsatisfactory. Last year I did Dry February as well as January, by December I was keeping to 4 alcohol free nights per week. I remain undecided about this year.

I didn’t stop drinking to fundraise, or to glow with virtue. I did it because I needed to prove to myself that not drinking is easy and I suppose I still think of myself as a bit of a role model for my (now adult) children.

It is easy not to drink if you are in the company of non-drinkers, or even some drinkers (thank you Bob for joining me). Even so it isn’t easy not to drink in our normal social and cultural surroundings. But it’s getting better … there are more alcohol free beers, more choice than ghastly sweet drinks and I even encountered WATER (!) on offer at a reception recently. Alcohol-free options are definitely having their moment, we have pondered this somewhat in the office, considering the gift giving that so often seems to be in bottle form. (see our earlier blog post).

BUT alcohol still pervades our everyday culture and not drinking is not nearly as easy as it could be, especially when you don’t have the ‘designated driver’ excuse. For me, Dry January is about breaking habits, being thoughtful about why I drink and feeling the benefits of being alcohol free.

As for being a role model? I have challenged my daughters to a Dry January. My youngest daughter described her experiences in a previous SCPN newsletter.

My eldest told me some of her experiences from the last 30 days…

The first week of the month flew by, we went to the cinema twice (!) instead of the the pub, and one of the Fridays I had the studio to myself (luxury) so stayed late preparing for the presentation, a great use of a Friday night-who knew!

I did feel smug as my friend who had ‘given up hangovers’ January (promising to drink more water after a night out) messaged to say she did not get out of bed till the afternoon – of course by this time I been for a run and had brunch with a friend. Bright-eyed on a Saturday morning with a full day ahead- great..!

Exhibition prep underway I build an interactive installation, a couple of late nights but you can handle the next mornings better if you’v not been out all weekend.  The show was a success, lots of people came and I was glad not to drink because the feedback was useful and I was able to really discuss things with each person who visited. 

Moving into February, I am going to aim for no drinking during the week, though in my industry that’s tricky because exhibition openings are almost always on Thursday nights! Perhaps I’ll substitute a Saturday here and there….


Even moderate drinking of more than 10g alcohol per day can increase breast cancer risk.

Knowing this is a motivator for me but also a reminder to support my daughters to reduce their risk too….#girlpower!

Thinking of staying dry for longer? you might like this article.

A Souper Fresh Start to 2018

Here at SCPN we wanted to give you some souper recipe ideas to try through January. We all know how important it is to eat a lot of vegetables, but did you know it prevents cancer?After much indulgence over the festive period, it is so important to get back into healthier habits.


Here are a few reasons why we want you to join us this January, for a SouperFreshStart to 2018, packing in all those vegetables and why we think eating soup is one of the easiest ways to achieve it:

  • It’s quick to make and easily stored/transported, most offices have microwaves, so you’ll have a healthy, inexpensive lunch in just 2 mins.
  • You can make double the recipe, prepping for a healthy lunch the next day, or freeze for later.
  • Packed full of veggies, you will be well on your way to 5-a-day and preventing cancer.
  • It’s cheap to make. Especially if you use frozen vegetables. Frozen veg still includes all the nutrients and goodness as fresh.
  • Suitable for all dietary requirements, most of our recipes are suitable for vegans and certainly vegetarians and can be adapted.
  • Soup can be as fancy or as simple as you want it to be. It is fun to experiment with flavours and adaptations, so if you see an ingredient you don’t fancy using, simply swop it out for one that you do like or just remove it all together.


Check out our recipes below and see if we can tempt you to try some of them out. We’d love to see how you get on, so be sure to tag us on Instagram and use the hashtag #SouperFreshStart

Continue reading “A Souper Fresh Start to 2018”

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