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.
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.