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Scottish Cancer Prevention Network | Putting Prevention First

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The SCPN

The Scottish Cancer Prevention network is focussed on moving evidence on cancer risk reduction into everyday life, practice and policy.

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.

My children tan really quickly – does that mean they have natural protection? Should we still use SPF 50 on them? 

A tan might provide only very slight protection against ultraviolet light, so a high factor sunscreen is still desirable. 

Most days in a Scottish summer are pretty cloudy (and there is a chilly wind) – do we really need to wear sun cream? 

Scotland has high levels of UV light during the summer months – which will penetrate through clouds and is not related to the temperature.

Let’s face it, sun cream can be expensive- what should we look for in terms of value for money?

Many supermarkets offer good quality low cost sunscreens. This charity also has been set up to provide the same  https://altruistsun.com

Fake tan hides a lot of white skin, is it also good for UV protection? 

It is not designed to protect the skin – the UV light can still get through!

Once my skin tans, do I still need to use sun cream? 

Indeed – the protection is minimal (see question 1)

How important is it to wear sunglasses – 

UV light is an important cause of cataracts so wearing UV protective sunglasses is important 

You have to burn in order to tan, is that true? 

False and dangerous – avoid any sort of burning at any lifestage. Burning seems to be a very important cause of melanoma, the commonest life-threatening form of skin cancer

Can we use natural sunblockers (like avocado oil or almond oil) and do they work as well as creams? 

There is too little evidence to recommend these – best to apply safe and proven sunscreens

Does wearing foundation prevent your face from burning?  

Depends what type and how much.  Read the labels carefully look for a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 to protect against UVB and at least 4-star UVA protection.

Can you still get burnt from the evening sun?

There is much less risk of sunburn at the beginning and the end of the day.


It’s also important to ensure that you apply enough suncream. Roughly, adults should aim to apply around two teaspoons of sunscreen for sufficient protection of their head, arms and neck and two tablespoons if they are covering their entire body while wearing a swimming costume. 

As well as suncream don’t forget sunglasses, a wide brimmed hat and taking the time to cover up -or seek shade when the sun is at its highest. If you have moles, use a SPF of at least 30 to protect yourself as well as going into the shade and covering up.

If you’d like to know more about sun safety, NHS Live Well  has more tips and advice for protecting yourself 

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?

Continue reading “Slip sliding away – impact of ’Covid times’ on our diets and consumer trends”

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. 

Continue reading “Breast Cancer Now Volunteers Raising Awareness of Breast Cancer “

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. 

Continue reading “New Term, Self Care September”

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.

Continue reading “Weight Management and Endometrial Cancer – One size may not fit all”

Ovarian Cancer – challenges and opportunities

Ovarian cancer remains a challenging disease to diagnose, because symptoms manifest late, often when there is spread to other organs. Women may therefore present with diverse symptoms such as breathlessness, bloating , urinary symptoms, heartburn and indigestion. Even though these are common symptoms, if persistent and unexplained, particularly in women over the age of 50, it is important they are not dismissed and that ovarian cancer is considered  1

Continue reading “Ovarian Cancer – challenges and opportunities”

Staycation eating: ways to stay healthy and develop helpful habits

What are the essential ingredients for a holiday? Sun? Swimming? A change of scene? A lie in?  It’s different for everyone but many of us would consider ‘special’ food and drink an important part of a great holiday.  But as we know, typical ‘treat’ foods are usually the foods which don’t do our health any favours – the ultra-processed foods high in sugar and refined starches, confectionery, cakes, biscuits and ice cream. Fizzy and alcoholic drinks are on the same list. 

So, is there a way to do holiday food without the downside of weight gain or getting into habits which are hard to break when the holiday’s over? Here are a few ideas;

Continue reading “Staycation eating: ways to stay healthy and develop helpful habits”

Active #Staycations

A summer break is an ideal time for recharging your batteries and getting some well-deserved R&R. In our previous blog, we highlighted that holiday time was a great time for investing in yourself. It’s recommended that you do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week, and although we might tend to slow things down a bit whilst on holiday, it is still possible to achieve enough active time.

But how easy is it to stay active whilst on a #staycation? We have a few practical tips from Dr Christos Theodorakopoulos, sports nutritionist and exercise professional to help us plan for active and healthier holidays;

Continue reading “Active #Staycations”

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