Scottish Cancer Prevention Network | Putting Prevention First



Dry Drinking The Sociable Way

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.

I certainly drink more than my mother did, and my daughters drink more than I do, so I feel the extra guilt of being a poor role model. To ease my conscience I have joined in dry January for the last 4 years, and ticked a box that says I can do without alcohol for 31 consecutive days. More and more people are joining this January fast, and this year I had the pleasure of a family event where 5 of the 8 guests were alcohol free. Work colleagues also joined in, as did a neighbour and friend…made life so much easier – but also easy to forget from February 1st onwards.




So – I thought I would try extending my dry habits through to the end of February, and that really wasn’t so easy.  It meant not drinking on New Year’s Day, a family weekend in London, Valentines Day, a wine tasting event and three days in France. I can do will power but I want a life!

However, will power alone runs dry pretty quickly in Scotland, where hospitality starts with a glass and ends with a glass. Still astounds me how many health conferences, meetings, receptions have free flowing wine – we really aren’t good at practicing what we preach!

But my extended sobriety this year meant I have had to develop some good strategies, preferably ones I could apply all year round.  So far, March has been pretty good with my new plan of action – here is how I have cut my alcohol intake by half:

  1. Find some good alcohol free beer.


    It’s worth the effort, and there are now lots to try. I have a (barking) favourite which just happens to be brewed in Scotland.

  2. Mocktails can be fun for those special occasions.


  3. Search and find good wines sold in half bottles.


    For years we have always squealed that half bottles are poor value for money but at the end of day the bills and the alcohol consumption are less!

  4. Share good finds with friends and funnily enough, they share back.


    Suddenly the tables are turned not how much has been drunk but how little, how low the bill, how good the morning after.

When I asked around about dry (or damp) January here are some of the responses:

My dry January did not start until the 14th for a variety of reasons.  I promised myself it would last until the 14th February.  And here I am, a pensioner on a rare treat, a first class train ride from Newcastle back to Dundee, on February 1st, and I am being offered lashings of free wine which, so far, I have managed to resist. 

– Male, aged 65


A few mouthfuls of wine get the taste…no need for more

– Female, aged 59


And from the money conscious young adult, a screenshot…



Finally, in February, our SCPN conference had two great sessions about alcohol. Dr Peter Rice from SHAAP gave an excellent overview of health and policy issues and a reminder of how there may be unintended consequences from the “sober month” approach about. The second presentation was from Lucy Rocca from Soberistas – an amazing presentation from an amazing lady and a great organisation.

No box ticking this year… its never enough!

Recognising and overcoming an alcohol addiction

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.

Continue reading “Recognising and overcoming an alcohol addiction”

Auntie Jean and Auntie Norma – Challenges in Cancer Prevention

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.

Continue reading “Auntie Jean and Auntie Norma – Challenges in Cancer Prevention”

Bowel Cancer Awareness Month: Reducing Risk is Everyone’s Business

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.

Continue reading “Bowel Cancer Awareness Month: Reducing Risk is Everyone’s Business”

More than just knowledge – social influences, support structures and personal action

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.

Continue reading “More than just knowledge – social influences, support structures and personal action”

Why aren’t we talking about Breast Cancer Prevention?

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.

Continue reading “Why aren’t we talking about Breast Cancer Prevention?”

Women and Alcohol

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.

Continue reading “Women and Alcohol”

Bowel Cancer – Can we do Better?

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.

Continue reading “Bowel Cancer – Can we do Better?”

From #Selfie to #HealthyShelfie

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.

Continue reading “From #Selfie to #HealthyShelfie”

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: