Scottish Cancer Prevention Network | Putting Prevention First

Eat Smart, Eat Seasonal

Making healthy and sustainable food choices only really appeared on my radar over the last couple years. We all appreciate the virtues of balanced, healthy eating for disease prevention, but what about healthy sustainable eating? We care about the health of our body but do we really consider the health of planet Earth?

Being a nutritionist, I fully admit to shopping smartly for good nutrition but only recently have I changed my ways to be a little bit kinder to the environment. One main change I’ve made is making an effort to shop local and eat foods that are currently in season.

Why Eat Seasonal Food?

Seasonal food is fresher, tastier and more nutritious than food consumed out of season.  Seasonal fruits and vegetables produced on local farms are often fresher as are not transported long distances to reach us (reducing carbon emissions). Also, unlike out of season produce which is harvested early in order to be shipped and distributed to local supermarkets, crops picked at their peak of ripeness are also better tasting and bursting with flavour. The longer fruit and veg can ripen naturally before picking, the more nutrient rich they will be(1,2). This is one of the reasons why fruit and veg taste so much better on holiday.

Cancer Prevention

Getting our 5-A-Day should be on everyone’s agenda. Evidence highlights that diets high in fruit, vegetables and fibre are associated with healthier body weights and contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals which may reduce the risk of cancer at several sites(2,3,4).

We can consume diverse and moderate amounts of fibre from fruit and vegetables. It is recommended that we consume 30g of fibre or more each day(5). Thirty grams may sound a lot but you may be surprised to know that an average apple has around 4.5g fibre and a cup of blackberries has 7.6g(6). Eating our 5-A-Day puts us well on our way to meeting our fibre targets. Evidence suggests that high fibre diets are associated with reduced risk of colorectal cancer, by the actions of fibre increasing stool bulk, diluting faecal carcinogens and decreasing transit time, reducing the contact between carcinogens and the lining of the colorectum (7).

Eating a variety of fruit and veg is key, as there is no one ‘super’ fruit or vegetable that is protective. So, if variety is key, why not help protect yourself and the environment by eating a range of in season fruit and veg?

What’s in Season? Image Source: Eat Seasonably (2020)

It is important to keep ourselves hydrated, so let’s not forget about drinks. We don’t really tend to think about where our drinks come from. For example, the manufacturing and processing, transportation and refrigeration of carbonated drinks such as colas and lemonades are much more costly to the environment (8) (and your purse) than drinking good old tap water or fresh vegetable juice. These options are more beneficial for your health, with sugary drinks linked to weight gain, overweight and obesity in children and adults (9).

Reach for tap water instead of carbonated drinks. Image Sources: Unsplash

I hope this can inspire you to give you food for thought whilst sifting the supermarket shelves and planning your next weekly shop. Why not make a pit-stop first at your local green grocer to see what nutritious goodies they have. If this works for you, why not tell your friends and be vocal about shopping local?! After all, each one of us can make a difference and together we can make a change.


  1. Howard, L., Wong, A., Perry, A., and Klein, B. 1999. β-carotene and ascorbic acid retention in fresh and processed vegetables. J. Food Sci. 64: 929-936.
  2. Joanne L. Slavin and Beate Lloyd., 2012. Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables. Adv Nutr, 3(4) 506-516
  3. Aune et al., 2011. Dietary fibre, whole grains, and risk of colorectal cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMJ 2011;343:d6617
  4. World Cancer Research Fund, 2019. Cancer Prevention Recommendations. Eat a diet rich in wholegrains, vegetables, fruit and beans. [online]. Available from:
  5. SACN, 2015. Carbohydrates and Health [online]. Available from:
  6. Dreher, 2018. Nutrients, 10 (12).
  7. Masrul M, Nindrea RD., 2019. Dietary Fibre Protective against Colorectal Cancer Patients in Asia: A MetaAnalysis. Open Access Maced J Med Sci. 2019 May 31; 7(10):1723-1727
  8. British Soft Drinks Association, 2018. Carbon Reduction. [online]. Available from:
  9.  Malik et al., 2013. Sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain in children and adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 98 (4). pp. 1084–1102.


Happy New Year!! … Welcome to a new decade and new thinking about old ways. 

Many of us will start the year planning new rules, new diets, new activity routines and dry Januarys. The SCPN has enjoyed promoting “healthy shelfie” in January asking followers to take a good look inside their fridge for healthy choices. At the start of this new decade we are focussing on something different, something that will be with us now and in all our futures.

#Recipeforafuture is more than a menu item it is a recipe for helping planet health and individual well-being including cancer prevention. Building on the Eat Lancet commission report which sets out guidance on what is a healthy, sustainable diet we want to think how we can get there – what does eating well mean in terms of everyday changes in food habits. Thinking global health, means we need to think wider than our plate and consider how we produce, transport, consume and waste food and drink. It means planning meals where plants are the new main course, wholegrains are core and a huge variety of fruits and vegetables are provided along small amount of meat, dairy and seafoods. It means staying away from ultra-processed choices, saturated fats and refined grains and added sugar.

During 2020 we will be focusing on thinking differently about food. This month we focus on plant based main courses meals where meat and dairy are the garnish, with local ingredients where possible and as little processed foods as possible. The recipes are simply ideas and suggestions the real challenge is how one resolution at a time we can help to reduce the demand for a food system that has created  major harm to our planet and global health.

Look out for our recipe tweets during January (#recipeforeafuture).

Here are my own personal New Year/New Decade resolutions:

  1. Buy less – do we really need 3 big (natural!) yoghurt cartons every week?
  2. Eat less –  ask for small portions when eating out.
  3. Waste less – reduce the size of our food cycling bin.
  4. Perfect one new wholegrain recipe every month.
  5. Make sure that global food system change stays on every nutrition agenda.

We would love to know about your resolution – together we can help to make a difference


Annie Anderson

Papers of the Year 2019: A Review

Many thanks to all the friends of the SCPN who have given us such great suggestions for Paper of the Year.

Here’s an overview in case you missed any:

  • CMO Dr Catherine Calderwood: Impact of scaled up human papillomavirus vaccination and cervical screening and the potential for global elimination of cervical cancer in 181 countries, 2020–99: a modelling study

Paper of the Year 2019: Professor Annie Anderson

We asked our SCPN team and friends what they thought was the most interesting paper that had come across their desks this year. Our final paper of 2019 has been nominated by SCPN co-director Professor Annie S. Anderson, who has chosen a progress report on the sugar reduction programme between 2015 and 2018.

Sugar reduction: Report on progress between 2015 and 2018

Public Health England

Why this paper?

High sugar intakes are associated dental caries and weight gain. Excess body fat and weight gain in adult life are associated with at least 13 cancers. The UK government is apparently committed to a sugar reduction programme but this is largely voluntary apart from sugary drinks which are subject to the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL).

The review published by Public Health England in September on progress on sugar reduction in foods available for purchase shows there is much to do to reach the ambition of 20% reduction (by reformulation) by 2020. The overall change between 2015 and 2018 has been 2.9% reduction. Some foods (but not many!) have shown bigger changes (breakfast cereals (8.5% reduction), and yogurts and fromage frais (10.3% reduction). However, some foods have also increased in sugar including puddings and sweet confectionery. So much for voluntary reductions by industry.

When it comes to sugary drinks with a new taxation process…. Significant decreases have been seen with a reduction of 28.8% between 2015 and 2018.

Conclusion… Nanny knows best!

Paper of the Year 2019: Miss Susan Moug

We asked our SCPN team and friends what they thought was the most interesting paper that had come across their desks this year. We asked Miss Susan Moug, consultant colorectal surgeon and Honorary Clinical Associate Professor based at Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley to tell us her nomination for paper of the year. In reply, she sent us this thought provoking statistic from the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership.

Increasing incidence of colorectal cancer in young adults in Europe over the last 25 years

Fanny ER Vuik, Stella AV Nieuwenburg, Marc Bardou et al.

GUT Journal

Why we can’t sit still…

It is not a paper that has struck a chord with me in 2019, but a statistic and a campaign. As a bowel surgeon I am trained to treat patients that are usually over 50s when they have a diagnosis of bowel cancer. What has become apparent to my colleagues and myself is that this clinical picture is changing with an increasing number of younger adults being diagnosed. A number of publications were released this year that show that bowel cancer rates are significantly increasing in younger adults – up to 7.9%  in 20-29 year group. Although this is not a big contribution to the overall numbers of patients being diagnosed very year in the UK, this increase is not reflected in the older adult group. This is why we cannot sit still and need to continue to improve our understanding of how cancer works. To highlight this changing demographic and raise awareness of bowel cancer in younger adults, Bowel Cancer UK started a campaign called Never Too Young. By focusing on individual stories, this campaign has shown that symptoms should not dismissed in younger adults and should get checked out. I encourage you to listen to them.

Paper of the Year 2019: CMO Dr Catherine Calderwood

We asked our SCPN team and friends what they thought was the most interesting paper that had come across their desks this year. We are delighted that our Chief Medical Officer Dr Catherine Calderwood has provided us with some thoughtful reading with a paper that highlights the possibility of global elimination of a form of cancer through vaccination.

Impact of scaled up human papillomavirus vaccination and cervical screening and the potential for global elimination of cervical cancer in 181 countries, 2020–99: a modelling study.

Kate T Simms, Julia Steinberg, Michael Caruana et al.

The Lancet Oncology

Why this paper?

This impactful paper models the potential for the elimination of cervical cancer worldwide by the end of this century through worldwide application of effective vaccination programs. The challenge to deliver an effective vaccination program is greatest in low and middle income countries and particularly in countries for religious and/or cultural beliefs, where education and information is less available.

However, recently evidence has emerged that when government agencies get behind the medical efforts to truly deliver a high penetrating vaccination program, there can be significant success in access and uptake of HPV vaccination programs in low income populations. In March 2018 the WHO called on countries in the South-East Asia region to accelerate their efforts towards cervical cancer elimination. Cervical cancer is a substantial burden in South-East Asia, with an estimated 158 000 new cases and 95 766 deaths reported in 2018. Improvements in screening, diagnosis, and treatment are urgently needed, but widespread vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV) will have the largest effect towards eliminating the disease. There is emerging evidence that effective government sponsored vaccination programs are being effective in low income populations, (Current status of human papillomavirus vaccination in India’s cervical cancer prevention efforts. Rengaswamy Sankaranarayanan et al. Lancet Oncology Volume 20, 11, 637-644, November, 2019).

National, publicly funded HPV vaccination programmes, high uptake of vaccination and screening, and access to high-quality diagnosis and treatment, are essential to tackle the global burden of cervical cancer. However, the disparities that persist in terms of access to vaccination and screening will delay worldwide elimination—a stark warning for countries of all income levels. Political commitment for evidence-led, well-funded, accessible prevention programmes combined with education and awareness campaigns to combat dangerous misinformation will bring countless societal and economic benefits.

Paper of the Year 2019: Lorraine Tulloch

We asked our SCPN team and friends what they thought was the most interesting paper that had come across their desks this year. We asked Lorraine Tulloch, Programme Lead, Obesity Action Scotland, for her nomination for paper of the year 2019 and this is what she had to say:

“Lifestyle choice, lifestyle related condition… all too often obesity is described in these terms. Such a reductionist approach to a complex issue repeatedly forms the dialogue in our current UK political climate. The paper I am nominating for paper of the year is far from reductionist”

The Global Syndemic of Obesity, Undernutrition and Climate Change: The Lancet Commission report

Boyd A Swinburn, Vivica I Kraak, Steven Allender et al.


Why this paper?

This paper presents obesity, alongside malnutrition and climate change as consequences of common systemic drivers. One of these drivers is a global industrial system producing and stimulating consumption at rates that harm our health and the environment. While it is easy to feel powerless when faced with addressing this, the authors suggest a range of actions to change the food and built environment for the better. The most significant conclusion is that it will be the tenacity of coalitions and power of evidence that will ensure system change in the future. We all can make a difference.

Paper of the Year 2019: Professor Callum Fraser

We asked our SCPN team and friends what they thought was the most interesting paper that had come across their desks this year. Professor Callum G Fraser, Senior Research Fellow, University of Dundee and Founding Member of the Expert Working Group on FIT for Screening, CRCSC, World Endoscopy Organization has chosen his paper of 2019 which discusses the important topic of the increasing incidence for colorectal cancer in young adults.

Increasing incidence of colorectal cancer in young adults in Europe over the last 25 years.

Fanny ER Vuik, Stella AV Nieuwenburg, Marc Bardou et al.

GUT Journal

Why this paper?

The media is replete with horror stories about young people who were discovered to have advanced colorectal cancer (CRC), often after many visits to health care professionals. This impressive study assessed 143.7 million people,aged 20-49 years,from 20 European countries. Only 187 918 (0.13%) had CRC. On average, CRC incidence increased 7.9%, 4.9% and 1.9% per year in those aged 20-29, 30-39 and 40-49 years.Thus, the argument to solve the problem simply by lowering the age to start screening to 45 years seems rather less than cogent. Further research on possible causes including lack of exercise, diet, smoking, alcohol and obesity is known to be in progress. In addition, the microbiome, influenced by diet and environment, might be important.

In the meantime, perhaps countries could well follow Scotland’s lead and make faecal immunochemical tests (FIT) ubiquitously available in primary care to all patients presenting with any lower bowel symptoms.

Paper of the Year 2019: Professor Nanette Mutrie

We asked our SCPN team and friends what they thought was the most interesting paper that had come across their desks this year. SCPN friend Professor Nanette Mutrie, Director of the Physical Activity for Health Research Group, University of Edinburgh, has nominated the revised Chief Medical Officers’ physical activity guidelines as her report of the year and here is why…

Continue reading “Paper of the Year 2019: Professor Nanette Mutrie”

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