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Scottish Cancer Prevention Network | Putting Prevention First

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Diet

Veg in Season this Autumn/Winter

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.

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Should we be supplementing vitamin D for cancer prevention?

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).

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Pulses, Pulses, Pulses

Prioritising pulses

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.  

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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!!

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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;

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#Staycation hydration

People can find it easier to be active and eat better on holiday, thanks to the break from routine and extra free time. However, holidays also come with lots of temptations, distracting our eyes from our normal healthy lifestyle behaviours. Of course you’re going to treat yourself (you’re on holiday!) but be mindful of how often you might do this. Holiday time is the time for feeling good, time to invest in yourself, so why not make a few little changes for an extra boost? One habit that most of us are prone to letting slide is keeping well hydrated (I’m not talking about alcohol here!).  

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We are all in this together

For some people body image, self-esteem and eating habits can be a struggle all year round – and even more of a strain on the lead up to summer holidays and planning a #staycation. 

A new YouGov survey conducted around the world has reported that 46% of Brits have gained weight during lockdown. More than half of people globally indicated they wanted to lose weight, with 51% reporting that they are trying to lose weight. 

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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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