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Scottish Cancer Prevention Network | Putting Prevention First

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Cancer

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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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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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

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New season – but they still want cake!

Schools are back and the season is changing. As we transition from a hot summer to darker autumn days  the need for comforting, warmer food starts to enter our thoughts. Seasonal eating could never be easier than in autumn as we see apples, pears and plums weighing down branches. Tatties, parsnips, and other roots waiting to be lifted and squashes and broccoli ready to colour our plates.  

But still the kids want cake!!

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Scottish Summer Skin – #StaycationHealth

On a sunny day in Scotland – why would you want to be anywhere else? Dark corners are lit, spirits rise and the outdoors beckons. Sunshine is undoubtedly good for our minds and bodies but like many good things, excess exposure can easily tip the balance from good health to poor health.

Sunshine tops up our vitamin D levels which is important for bone health but it also tops the risk factor list for developing skin cancer. These neoplasms are the most common form of cancer in Scotland and include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell cancer and malignant melanoma. Rates are rising (17.9% in 10 years) and notably for malignant melanoma which is the 5th most common cancer in Scotland.

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Cancer in men living in Scotland – let’s think wellbeing for Men’s Health Week

May 2021 brought the latest report from Public Health Scotland on Cancer Incidence and Prevalence in Scotland

The good news is that over the last decade, the risk of developing cancer in Scotland fell by 5% in men. However, in the decade (from 2019) there were significant increases in rates of cancers of the prostate (up 11%), thyroid (up 42%), liver (up 24%), and kidney (up 21%) and malignant melanomas (up 21%) in Scottish men.

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Vaccines, Vaccines, Vaccines #WorldImmunizationWeek

For most, vaccines are a welcome addition to routine care, but for some they are perceived as dangerous and threatening.  In this blog, we hope to illustrate how vaccines contribute to the health of the population and we will start with their role in cancer control.  The human papilloma virus (HPV) is now recognised as the principle causative factor in cancer of the cervix, anus and oropharynx (mouth and throat).  Because this virus is an infective agent that raises antibodies, its effects can be prevented by vaccination, and thanks to the development of an effective vaccine by Ian Frazer and his group in Australia the virtual eradication of these cancers is now a possibility.  In the UK, all girls and now boys aged 12 to 13 in school year 8 are offered HPV vaccination.  With high adherence to this programme, it is anticipated that cervical screening will eventually become unnecessary and that suffering from a HPV related cancer will become a thing of the past.  However, for this aspiration to be realised, is essential that this protection is extended to the vast majority of the population.

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Dear Mum… #lookaftermum

Health has been centre stage for the past year.  I feel perhaps like many others, I have done a full 360o in terms of my mindset and mental health. When the pandemic hit and Scotland announced its first lockdown we were all a bit shook as to the speed of the sweeping deadly virus Covid-19. The uncertainty and powerlessness of the situation led my mood to spiral and I began comfort eating for the FIRST time in my life. How did I not notice? Emotional eating wasn’t a typical habit of mine. The whole world seemed to have gone to pot. Nothing was normal. I couldn’t see my family. I couldn’t see my friends. Everyone seemed to become really busy. My little boy was growing up fast and I couldn’t share this with anyone. In hindsight I guess I used food as a source of comfort in a time I felt unable to cope. Single parenting a toddler, with no respite, during a pandemic has certainly been tough.

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