Every time I show the slide that says “35% of Scottish women aged over 50 drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week,” I am reminded that this includes me. I would not describe myself as a heavy drinker, but I do drink more than I know is appropriate for my health. From my research on alcohol intake in women and breast cancer risk, I know that I am not alone in being reluctant to discuss the pleasure of red wine consumption with health professionals.
We are very grateful to an SCPN member, now an independent researcher, for sharing this very personal but hopeful account of her struggle to overcome her problem drinking.
I am now in control of my drinking. It feels good to say that, yet somewhat uneasy, as it’s never a ‘done deal’. I started drinking at 18, and it has taken me 16 years to get to a place where I can say that without an inkling of guilt, without wincing at the odd indiscretion or blow out.
I started drinking heavily at University. I went to the University of Sussex, near Brighton, which is an amazing place to be a student! There were several on-campus bars, and there was one literally 30 paces from my shared accommodation. It was great to get to know new people, and the cheap snakebites were a great conversation facilitator. It was acceptable to go every evening after dinner; there was no judgement. It helped us bond at a time when that felt so monumentally important for all that lay ahead of us.
Everyone knows of an ‘Auntie Jean’. She is the older woman, who liked a good drink, hearty meals, and big puddings and specialises in spectator sport (with feet up in front of the telly). She scores 0 for lifestyle actions for reducing cancer risk. Not a second thought to worrying about health (“the doctor never said I was doing anything wrong“), lived well over the three score years and ten, and dropped dead one day without bothering a soul.
As part of Bowel Cancer Awareness month, we’re running a series of mini-blogs from cancer experts. Here’s the next instalment from Professor Annie S. Anderson.
I would like the public to know that getting bowel cancer is not about bad luck and fate.
I am an avid twitter user, I am also a dietitian, I work in cancer services and I am employed by the NHS.
As a dietitian I work quite differently from a number of other health care professionals. My job is not to do things to people; it is to do things with people. In other words I pass on my knowledge and expertise, and then I encourage people to utilise it in a way that enables them to help themselves.
It never fails to amaze me how current evidence on lifestyle, and cancer prevention and lifestyle, is so rarely talked about outside academic life. If family and friends know that I research cancer prevention strategies they assume this involves genetics, laboratory investigations or testing special dietary regimens.
Sophistication and glamour, celebration and commiseration, sharing and caring… A few years ago these all sounded like good reasons to open a bottle, and enjoy a glass or two on a Saturday, or a Friday evening, or Sunday lunch, or gloomy Thursday, and maybe a Tuesday if the day had been long. In in my annual GP check, I always confess to no more than 14 units a week and feel smug. My practice nurse nods approvingly.
The good news about bowel cancer, is that current evidence suggests that 47% of the disease is preventable1, by attaining a healthy diet (high in wholegrains, beans and veggies and low in red meat and meat products), low alcohol intake (as low as possible), all sorts of physical activity (brisk walking, swimming, gentle jogs), and keeping trim. The bad news, is that few people seem to act on the evidence.
The world loves selfies but can this stretch to the shelfie? One of the aims of SCPN is to raise awareness about the preventability of cancer and think about how the environment around us can positively impact on our health and reduce disease risk.
During January we are focusing on the content of fridge shelves (#HealthyShelfie). We have asked/nominated folks to share their fridge contents with us and to illustrate all the lovely goodies that make up a healthy diet.