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Scottish Cancer Prevention Network | Putting Prevention First

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cancer risk

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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Changes in the cancer landscape – a window to the future?

The latest report from Public Health Scotland on cancer incidence indicates more evidence for the benefits of early diagnosis and improved treatments but also shows upward trends in incidence of several major lifestyle related cancers. It is so easy to point to an ageing population and longer lives as reasons for greater number of cases but we also need to think of lifestyle related cancers that are increasing at a younger age (e.g. colorectal cancer).  It is also notable that the risk of cancer diagnosis is higher in females aged 25 to 59 and higher in males aged over 60.

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FIT – a little goes a long way

Faecal immunochemical tests for haemoglobin (FIT) are now used in asymptomatic bowel screening programmes and also in assessment of patients presenting with lower bowel symptoms.  FIT specimen collection devices have a stick attached to the cap of the tube: this stick has dimples or grooves near the end to collect the correct amount of faeces. Our instructions are simple, namely, “dip the end of the stick into your poo” and “scrape the end of the stick along the sample”, and have pictures of exactly what sample is required. However, many seem surprised at how little faeces is collected, only 2 mg in the FIT used in Scotland for both clinical purposes.  Interestingly, some assume that more must be better and do try very hard to give a little (or a lot) extra in the device!  To date, very little attention has been paid to this aspect of FIT.  Recently, however, a very relevant paper has been published.1

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Shifting Evidence of Breast Cancer in Night Shift Work

In 2007, the International Agency for Research on Cancer|World Health Organization (IARC|WHO) concluded that the effects of shift work on the disruption of normal circadian rhythm had a probable link to breast cancer. IARC suggest that our endogenous 24-hour body clocks may be subject to interference by factors such as exposure to light at night, and it’s impact on melatonin levels may be linked to breast cancer. However, a recent meta-analysis led by Dr Ruth C. Travis published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute concludes that night shift work may actually have very little effect on breast cancer risk.

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Would You Miss Red and Processed Meat?

There aren’t many good things to report about dietary trends in Scotland but one that does stand out is our decreasing consumption of red and processed meat – albeit by a modest amount.

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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.

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Our obesogenic, carcinogenic environment – a legacy for our children

The relationship between obesity and cancer has been well described…and well ignored! Exposure to excess body fat will contribute to increased risk of some of the most common cancers including bowel and breast. Yet, few agencies working in the cancer settings (including the NHS) bring this to the attention of the millions of people who are in contact with healthcare every day. Many think it is a duty of care for people to be given advice on how to “stack the odds” against cancer occurrence (and recurrence) and that we deny people the opportunity to be supported to reduce cancer risk.

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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.

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