We Can : I can … support cancer prevention on World Cancer Day February 4th 2017. Work to stack the odds against cancer occurrence and recurrence must be part of cancer control programmes across the world.

Since the 2016 UICC World Cancer Conference in Paris there can be no doubt that the evidence on lifestyle and cancer risk reduction is strong. We now see many cancer focussed NGO’s supporting, campaigning and advocating for policy action around obesity through promoting physical activity and issues related to energy dense foods (cost, availability and marketing). We have excellent examples of tobacco work through the Framework convention on tobacco control but we have much to change when it comes to obesity.

Part of the change that is needed around obesity management is winning the hearts and minds of clinicians. Several years have passed since we published our paper on Obesity and lifestyle among colorectal cancer clinicians where the reasons for not discussing this sensitive topic included time, lack of evidence, training and patient relationships. Somehow we imagined that as more evidence on obesity emerged that more endorsements for action, support for health behaviour change and an understanding around duty of care would emerge. After all why would health services withhold the evidence on breast or bowel cancer risk factors from healthy adults undergoing clinical activities concerned with cancer such as early detection programmes?

There is of course a big issue about health inequalities- maybe the only people who will listen about lifestyle and have the capability to respond are those with most resources (income and social support) and so better not to say anything ? Maybe people would feel threatened or guilty, or avoid further consultation? Maybe talking about breast or bowel health is someone else’s job- the health promotion officer or commercial slimming clubs or no-ones job but a task for government to resolve in its own slow fashion as we are left gaping at the increasing incidence figures.

No one can tackle our obesity crisis alone. Tobacco control has emerged from strong advocacy from health professionals and a multitude of supporters including from citizens, worksites, charities and government support. If we are going to turn the tide of obesity with the potential to reduce around 24,700 cases of cancer in the UK per annum we need to act Now!

We can, I can – who can’t?

Professor Annie S Anderson BSc PhD  RD FRCP (Edin)

Professor Robert J C Steele BSc, MBChB, MD, FRCSEd, FRCSEng, FCS(HK)