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Scottish Cancer Prevention Network | Putting Prevention First

Veg in Season this Autumn/Winter

A diet rich in wholegrains, pulses, vegetables and fruit and low in high calorie, highly processed foods remains the key dietary factors for reducing cancer risk (WCRF). Achieving this in a way that doesn’t take hours of preparation, hours of expensive cooking time and hard to find ingredients is a challenge and more so this year as fuel prices jump.

No foods are cheap but eating vegetables and fruit in season can help reduce costs especially if waste can be minimised. Nourish Scotland October and November provide a great wee guide to what is in season on home territory and some excellent recipe ideas. Thinking what to do with a bag of carrots can sometimes need a bit of imagination and we have pulled ideas from around our team- with an emphasis on dishes that are simple, quick and filling. A pressure cooker and microwave cuts fuel costs and minimises oven use…  important when unit costs of fuel are at the mercy of global action which we have so little power to deal with.

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Should we be supplementing vitamin D for cancer prevention?

It’s approaching that time of year again that the clocks go back. This is a timely reminder that once the days become shorter in length we should start taking an oral vitamin D supplement of 10mcg. The body produces vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight, and surprise surprise we don’t see enough sunshine during winter in Scotland, that’s why it’s important to supplement daily from October to March. Vitamin D is also found naturally in some foods, such as oily fish, eggs and mushrooms, and is often added to others including dairy and some cereals. It is difficult to know exactly how much vitamin D we eat from foods, so supplementing is a more reliable option (See previous blog You can have your vitamin D and eat it for tips on how to eat more vitamin D food sources).

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Pulses, Pulses, Pulses

Prioritising pulses

We have all seen a rise in food prices during our weekly shops. Higher food prices, rising energy bills and tax hikes are all clashing to create a frustrating sting on household budgets. A lot of us are being forced to re-think food choices, opting for cheaper alternatives or buying less. 

Canned foods have a bit of a bad reputation, most likely because it is assumed that foods that come out of a can are ultra-processed. Yes, of course, we should be mindful of high sugar and salt containing canned foods, but it is important to understand that not all canned foods are necessarily unhealthy. Canned pulses such as kidney beans, chickpeas and lentils can provide our diets with good sources of protein and fibre, are low in fat and are cheap to buy.  

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Sunshine ahead :)

Sunshine ahead, summer days, holiday fun is just around the corner! You’re probably looking forward to your favourite warm-weather activities – cycling, picnics, even eating al fresco – but let’s not forget suncare! Skin cancer cases continue to rise in Scotland in both men and women (Public Health Scotland 2020) but this can be prevented by protecting our skin from dangerous UV exposures. 

We asked Professor Colin Fleming, consultant dermatologist at Ninewells hospital and Medical School to answer some of the myths around sun protection.

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Slip sliding away – impact of ’Covid times’ on our diets and consumer trends

It looks like years of advice, promotion, guidance and initiatives about healthy eating and the importance of a healthy diet in the prevention of cancer, diabetes and heart disease might be slipping away from the public stomach! Despite the poor reputation of the nation’s diet there were some small improvements in the years reports prior to 2020. We significantly decreased our intake of sugary drinks (thanks to the governments industry levy) with corresponding reductions in overall sugar intake and also attained some small decreases in salt and saturated fat (see FSS report). Small trends in the right direction, with promise for impact on diet related disease?

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World Cancer Day – time to reflect on cancer prevention

Initially, the headline sounded good… “Decrease in the numbers of cancers diagnosed” – until you read the sub-title about diminished screening services, fear of going to GP’s and reduced access to diagnostic facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic (ScotGov2021)

If only we could decrease the numbers of people getting cancers especially late-stage disease and reduce incidence across all peoples- from poorest to richest from Northern and Southern hemispheres. We focus so much on early diagnosis (ScotGov, staging, 2021) as a way of reducing cancer morbidity (and mortality) but the lens on prevention has got very cloudy in the last couple of years. Focusing on health behaviours at a time when COVID-19 related stress and anxieties have risen has not become easier. We have watched obesity figures increase and greater alcohol consumption across  the Scottish population (SHS,2021).

As COVID-19 recedes it must be time to put health, not disease centre stage. Sadly, there are few vaccinations for preventing cancers – and where these do exist (like cervical cancer) we can see major differences in incidence (NHSScotland, 2022). For the most frequently occurring cancers, lifestyle matters a lot – almost 40% of cancers can be prevented and there might be good reasons for focussing on those cancers that are rising in Scotland which include kidney, prostate and uterus – all of which are obesity related. 

There is, however, increasingly good news as more research shows that weight loss can decrease risk in key obesity cancers including breast and bowel. These findings show that the damage created by excess body fat (and the mechanisms related to cancer development) can be reduced and it’s not too late to make a difference to change health and well-being. Like smoking cessation, weight management provides an opportunity to get some control back into our lives and to plan, one step at a time, how we want to lead in times of lower COVID risk.
The USA have reignited their Cancer moonshot – an ambitious plan to reduce the death rate from cancer by at least 50 percent over the next 25 years. Scotland has been a health exemplar in many ways and now it is time to seriously plan an equally ambitious and equitable cancer reduction plan that can also contribute to diminishing inequalities in health.

Professor Annie S. Anderson & Professor Bob Steele

Breast Cancer Now Volunteers Raising Awareness of Breast Cancer 

In Scotland, every year around 4,700 people are diagnosed with breast cancer. Raising awareness of breast cancer is key to achieving Breast Cancer Now’s vision that by 2050, everyone diagnosed with breast cancer will live and be supported to live well. To improve survival rates, people with breast cancer must be diagnosed as early as possible, when the chances of successful treatment are at their highest. 

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New Term, Self Care September

There is a nostalgia that surrounds this time of year, the start of a #newterm and a change in both the weather and our mindset. The change from summer to autumn brings shorter days, a chill in the air and a crisp feeling below our feet. Autumn means a lot of fun and outdoors activities for me and my son – nature is beautiful this time of year. 

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Weight Management and Endometrial Cancer – One size may not fit all

Supporting women who have or are at risk of endometrial cancer can mean more than simply medical interventions. It is often difficult to raise the topic on obesity and more important to provide the help needed. Consultant gynaecologists Dr Wendy McMullen and Dr Kalpana Ragupathy from NHS Tayside provide a lens on some of the practical issues they have experienced over the last five years.

Uterine (womb) cancer is now the most common gynaecological cancer, with 3 in 100 women developing this cancer in their lifetime. Being overweight increases the probability of developing many cancers, but the effect is most striking in womb cancer where the risk increases almost sixfold in women with a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 351. This is largely due to excess adipose (fat) tissue generating the hormone oestrogen, which causes thickening of the lining of the womb which in turn can lead to cancer.

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