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Scottish Cancer Prevention Network | Putting Prevention First

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Bowel 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

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!!

Continue reading “New season – but they still want cake!”

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.

Continue reading “Dear Mum… #lookaftermum”

World Cancer Day 2021 – Time to think again

COVID-19

The global pandemic has been dominating the world of Scottish public health, primary care and acute medicine for the past year. We have watched the daily, weekly and monthly figures of cases, hospital admissions and deaths of the millions whose lives have sadly been affected or lost to Covid-19.

There are, on the other hand, many other worries and statistics that have always got less air time. Concerns about cancer diagnosis (especially delayed screening), treatments and recovery may have been severely impacted on many of thousands of people in Scotland during the pandemic, but the details do not regularly appear on our television screens. It is interesting to give thought to what might happen if we did receive daily reminders.

Continue reading “World Cancer Day 2021 – Time to think again”

Personal prevention strategies : the overlap of Covid-19 and cancer

By Kellie Anderson, MSc

As we slide into the crunchy-leaved depths of September, Covid-19 remains our daily reality. So much so that perhaps some of us are thinking of our lives in terms of BC and DC – Before-Covid and During-Covid. 

This may or may not be a melodramatic assessment of our situation. Only time will tell.

During this unique and rather anxious time many of us have embraced helpful health behaviours, hoping to circumvent our risk of the more acute – and evolving – aspects of the virus. 

Occasional walkers turned into determined hill walkers; smokers quit in droves (at least the under-30s); and an increased number of us were more likely to be cooking, and paying attention to our diet

Continue reading “Personal prevention strategies : the overlap of Covid-19 and cancer”

The causes of cancer: implications for policy and practice

Professor Richard Martin, University of Bristol

Around 1 in 2 people in the UK will get cancer in their lifetime (Cancer Research UK). Over 40% of cancers are linked to a combination of 14 major lifestyle and environmental factors that are potentially preventable. The Integrative Cancer Epidemiology Programme (ICEP) uses cutting edge statistical methods and genetic data on 10s to 100s of thousands of people to provide high quality evidence on: the causes of cancers; factors influencing the progression of cancer; new ways to predict who will develop or die from these cancers; and new ways to prevent cancer and its progression. 

Continue reading “The causes of cancer: implications for policy and practice”

The power of prevention – stacking the odds in favour of a longer disease-free life

What would you give for an extra ten years of healthy life? A recent BMJ study showed that sticking to just five healthy habits in middle age – not smoking, regularly exercising, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy body weight, and limiting alcohol – can earn you an extra ten years of disease free life. This is especially significant given that we are all living longer – but often that longer life is accompanied by one or more chronic health conditions.

Continue reading “The power of prevention – stacking the odds in favour of a longer disease-free life”

FIT – a little goes a long way

Faecal immunochemical tests for haemoglobin (FIT) are now used in asymptomatic bowel screening programmes and also in assessment of patients presenting with lower bowel symptoms.  FIT specimen collection devices have a stick attached to the cap of the tube: this stick has dimples or grooves near the end to collect the correct amount of faeces. Our instructions are simple, namely, “dip the end of the stick into your poo” and “scrape the end of the stick along the sample”, and have pictures of exactly what sample is required. However, many seem surprised at how little faeces is collected, only 2 mg in the FIT used in Scotland for both clinical purposes.  Interestingly, some assume that more must be better and do try very hard to give a little (or a lot) extra in the device!  To date, very little attention has been paid to this aspect of FIT.  Recently, however, a very relevant paper has been published.1

Continue reading “FIT – a little goes a long way”

Scottish Bowel Screening programme – reflections 10 years on

The Scottish Bowel Screening programme is over ten years old. Scotland was the first country in the world to introduce systematic screening for bowel cancer and the first in the UK to offer testing to people aged 50. Lots of lessons have been learned along the way including how to improve the screening test and uptake.

Here are some reflections on current screening from Professor Bob Steele….

Continue reading “Scottish Bowel Screening programme – reflections 10 years on”

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