Scottish Cancer Prevention Network | Putting Prevention First

The Female Physiology and Breast Cancer – Why Women are Affected by Alcohol More Than Men

The American publication ‘Nutrition Action’’s most recent article highlights issues about women and alcohol by George Koob (Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism at the National Institutes of Health), Walter Willet (chair of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health) and Regina Ziegler (of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics at the National Cancer Institute).

Continue reading “The Female Physiology and Breast Cancer – Why Women are Affected by Alcohol More Than Men”


Boys Don’t Get it! – Recalling a Conversation about Cervical Cancer Screening


ME: Heyyy, big party on Friday, come along!

CLAIRE: Oh yeh thanks, sounds good, but I’ll see how I feel – gotta go for colposcopy Friday morning.

ME: Oh really, I had one recently, wasn’t bad at all and the nurses were really nice! Which hospital you going to?

CLAIRE: Homerton

ME: Och I’m sure they’ll be nice, to be honest the worst bit about colposcopy for me was trying to explain to Chris that I dont have an STD!


When I received my last follow up letter after a smear which showed abnormal cells I mentioned to my boyfriend that I’d be doing that in a few weeks so I’d have to take the morning off work. His face fell, what do you mean you’ve got to get tested? How can you have an STD?

I realised this wasn’t going to be the evening we’d planned, well we can see that film at the cinema next week..

I first got Wikipedia up, then explained how we gals have to go do this every few years, and no, it’s not a great experience but hey, prevention is key, and, it’s free! He seemed a bit embarrassed that he had misunderstood the importance of cancer screening but totally got it once I explained that all girls, and women do this, yes even all your friend’s girlfriends (and your mum!).

We girls are pretty good at supporting each other, we are open about our health and don’t have any qualms about chatting about smear tests over cappucinos. But the recent conversation with my boyfriend, and with my friend about her boyfriend’s seemingly unsupportive/confused reaction to cervical cancer screening makes me wonder if a general confusion about cervical cancer testing, compared with more general sexual health screening from the boys might be acting as a barrier to us going for testing.

Fortunately we were able to explain in not too much time to the lads what is going on and why it is important, while the best way to explain to them prior to an encounter like our experiences is not obvious it seems that being prepared to explain is helpful. Of course they want the best for us and want to support us (and their mums) so it is important being open to their questions, without being offended, its not that they are ignorant but men would rarely hear about smear tests in their group chats!

For advice (after looking at Wikipedia!) Jo’s Trust website has a few threads on their forums about men and cervical cancer testing, including male bosses and how to talk to them about getting days off for testing and treatment.

–  Anonymous.

The Exposome: An Optimistic Approach to Cancer Prevention

Dr Christopher P. Wild, Director at the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), was in Scotland last week speaking at the Royal Society of Edinburgh on Monday July 10th 2017 in association with the Scottish Cancer Foundation and the Cruden Foundation. He then made his way to Ninewells Hospital and Medical School in Dundee on Tuesday 11th to speak at the annual lecture for the Ninewells Cancer Campaign.

Continue reading “The Exposome: An Optimistic Approach to Cancer Prevention”

Breast Cancer and Lifestyle – What Do We Know About Physical Activity and Our Weight?

The World Cancer Research Fund with the American institute for Cancer Research have recently published the most comprehensive review on breast cancer and it’s relation to diet, nutrition and physical activity. Click on the following link to read this compelling review in order to find out how certain lifestyle choices may increase or decrease risk of breast cancer.

Continue reading “Breast Cancer and Lifestyle – What Do We Know About Physical Activity and Our Weight?”

What could £10,000 and a medal do to help the fight against cancer?

Over the last two summers the Scottish Cancer Foundation, supported by the Grant Simpson Trust, have put out a call for nominations for an award to reward people doing outstanding work to reduce the burden of cancer in our country. Nominations are very welcome for those from any walk of life – health care professionals, researchers, charity workers and lay people – the only criteria being they have done something great in the fight against cancer.


Our inaugural prize winner in 2015 was Professor Tessa Holyoake, Director of the Paul O’Gorman Leukaemia Research Centre at the University of Glasgow. Professor Holyoake is a cancer specialist who has made Glasgow into one of the world’s leading centres for leukaemia research. Her ground-breaking work on cancer stem cells, which play a critical role in the development of chronic myeloid leukaemia, is of international significance and has been hailed as offering the greatest promise of a medical cure for this form of leukaemia.

Last year our prize winner was Sheila Duffy, the chief executive of ASH Scotland and a leading anti-tobacco campaigner in Scotland. Sheila has been working successfully to change the hearts and minds of the people of Scotland around tobacco use for the last 20 years and has seen smoking rates in Scotland plummet to half what they were in the 1970s, with the number of young people taking up the habit at the lowest level ever recorded. She played a prominent role in building the case in Scotland for the introduction of a smoking ban in enclosed public places in 2006 – the first part of the UK to introduce such a measure.

The successful candidate will receive up to £10,000 to further their work and the Evans Forrest medal, named after the founders of SCF. If you think you know someone who is worthy of this prestigious prize please visit the SCF website for more details on how to submit an entry. The closing date for entries is Thursday, 31st August 2017.

Breastfeeding reduces risk of breast and other female cancers and has other benefits for women

IMG_0808In Scotland, this is national breastfeeding week- a celebration of what has been achieved but also a call to reflect on how we might do better. With colleagues in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at the University of Dundee and other experts across the UK, I am a signatory to a statement calling for a change in the culture to provide all women with the right support, at the right time, in the right place to initiate and maintain breastfeeding. And yes… breastfeeding is relevant to a cancer prevention network.


The European Code Against Cancer recommends:

“Breastfeeding reduces the mother’s cancer risk. If you can, breastfeed your baby”.

The background review paper reports:

  • Protective effect against breast cancer at all ages
    • 2% reduction per 5 months breastfeeding
    • The longer breastfeeding is continued the better
    • Exclusive BF impacts on ER- and ER+ cancers
  • Modest protective effect against ovarian and endometrial cancer


And there is more ….

Breast feeding is associated with

  • More rapid return to pre-pregnancy weight
  • Lower incidence of the metabolic syndrome for mother (and decrease risk of type 2 diabetes)
  • Lower body weight in later life

Artboard 1

Everyone knows about the nutritional benefits of breast milk and the amazing immunological benefits but the long term effects (largely associated with reduced exposure to oestrogens) should not be forgotten.

Supporting our daughters and granddaughters to appreciate the lifelong effects of breast feeding must be central to women’s health which is why we call for education for children, through to support from health professionals as a key part of health for all.

Professor Annie S. Anderson

Breast Cancer and Lifestyle – what do we know about alcohol?

The World Cancer Research Fund with the American institute for Cancer Research have recently published the most comprehensive review on breast cancer and diet, nutrition and physical activity

CUP BR Cover_222x130

The work is exemplar because it does not simply take estimates derived from one source but brings together an international panel of experts to review all available evidence. WCRF estimate that around 38% of the disease is due to lifestyle (and that is before we think about smoking!), which is similar to estimates of around 30% reported by Howell et al

The report makes interesting reading, and to highlight some of the findings we thought you might like to test your knowledge on some key topics starting with alcohol and breast cancer.

Menopausal status

  • Alcohol is implicated in both pre- and post- menopausal breast cancer
  • In pre-menopausal cases there was a 5% increase risk per 10g alcohol per day (one small glass of wine)
  • In post-menopausal cases there was a 9% increase risk per 10g alcohol per day
  • In post-menopausal cases there were significant associations between alcohol intake and different hormone receptor cancers (ER+PR+ and ER+PR-)

Units Infographic

The mechanisms of how alcohol influences breast cancer are complex

  • The content of overall diet e.g. a low intake of dietary folic acid
  • Alcohol is metabolised to acetaldehyde which can cause DNA damage
  • Alcohol can act as a solvent which increases the ability of carcinogens to enter cells
  • Alcohol may increase circulating oestrogen levels
  • The impact of alcohol in breast cancer may be affected by a range of genetic factors which alter the sensitivity of breast cells to carcinogens

For more information and further details we recommend

Interested in research into cancer prevention and management in relation to nutrition and physical activity?

The WCRF/AICR work on diet, physical activity and alcohol highlights that around 25% of all cancers are due to these lifestyle factors. Research on how we can change these health behaviours for primary prevention and cancer recurrence is challenging but internationally there is a growing number of investigators working in this area.

I have just returned from the annual meeting of the International Society of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity (ISBNPA) in Canada where our special interest group (SIG) on cancer prevention and management provides a great forum for sharing research findings on lifestyle interventions. Continue reading “Interested in research into cancer prevention and management in relation to nutrition and physical activity?”

Scottish Curriculum for Plant-Based Living: Brazilian aspirations

Our last blog by Anna Strachan (@obesityactionsc) left us thinking how we can start to change our Scottish diet high in processed foods. I have previously written about the new Scottish diet but the Brazilian challenge focuses the mind!

The European Code Against Cancer supports the concept of a plant based diet and we need to think creatively about how we can help Scots put that in place. “Inspiration and directions” from our amazing Scottish food heritage doesn’t need to use foods grown exclusively in Scotland – we have fabulous opportunities to create fusion cuisine from many unprocessed ingredients. The joy of cooking doesn’t need to be about cake baking, supermarket recipes or designing pizza, but simple pleasures from simple ingredients.

It is encouraging to see the Brazilian dietary guidelines promoting the development of cooking skills. For many years, we [University of Dundee] carried out a trial on the impact of cooking skills on dietary intake and reported a modest effect on food choice and cooking confidence. We focused on cooking skills people wanted to learn, but what if we had focused on what we thought might be most worthy ?

If the SCPN was asked for a curriculum for school children, or students or adults or anyone…here would be our starting points for the skills for a Scottish plant based diet (skills like preparing fish, meat and other Scottish exotics can come at a later date). The value of food classes come not just from preparation, but the time taken to share, enjoy and appreciate. Readers, would you support a curriculum for plant based living?

  • Making, serving and eating Porridge


    • Served straight
    • Served with added fruits and nuts
  • Creating and eating home-made breakfast cereal mix

    • Start with oats and add (barley flakes, dried, fresh or frozen fruit, seeds)
  • Planning, making and tasting seasonal soups (2 sessions)

    • Broths
    • Veggies based soups
    • Barley based winter soups
    • Chilled soups
  • Designing, preparing and chomping seasonal salads (2 sessions)


    • Starting with base ingredients
  • Cabbage, kale, lettuce, salad greens


    • Adding colour mix
  • Tomatoes, carrots, cucumber


    • Adding the seasons – herbs, fruits and the colours – red, purple, yellow
  • Baking bread, rolls and bases


    • Wholemeal, wholegrain, mixed fours, seeds – endless combination and creative opportunities

So there are the first eight, with more to follow of course – fish, wee meat portions (and no one needs to know about sausages and other processed meats) but let’s get the basics done first!

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