Cancer Prevention in Scotland – taking the lead

AnnieAndersonProfileProfessor Annie S. Anderson BSc PhD RD FRCP is co-director of The Scottish Cancer Prevention Network (SCPN) – an advocacy group supported by the Scottish Cancer Foundation. It aims to increase awareness of evidence relating diet and lifestyle to cancer occurrence and recurrence, supports relevant policy work and networks examples of good practice in action). SCPN hosts an annual conference, provides (free) quarterly newsletters, engages widely in social media (twitter, Instagram, facebook) develops resources (e.g. Healthy meetings score cards, Kettlecise posters) and blogs. The network also responds to government consultations, provides evidence to relevant government committees, inputs to the Scottish Cancer Taskforce, Scottish Cancer Coalition and undertakes a wide range of public engagement activities. In 2018, the Irish Cancer Control programme announced the launch of The Irish Cancer Prevention Network based on the SCPN model. In 2019 co-directors Annie Anderson and Bob Steele were awarded The Stephen Fry Award for Excellence in Public Engagement with Research.

Annie tells us how this initiative started….

Between 2005 and 2008 I was an observer on the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) International review of diet, physical activity and cancer. Reading the systematic reviews for each cancer site by exposure and listening to discussion by the world’s best nutritional epidemiologists hit hard. The evidence is clear and action in this arena is long overdue. I made a personal commitment to moving these findings into the policy and practice with a focus on making a difference. We started the SCPN in 2009 and we are still here and still growing!


As a researcher in cancer prevention and behaviour change the agenda of unanswered questions is large. One obvious area is related to the evidence on post-menopausal breast cancer and lifestyle (excess body fat, low physical activity and alcohol) which accounts for about 30% of this disease. Questions around engaging women with this evidence, offering support in lifestyle change and measuring the impact of interventions delivered through routine breast cancer screening is one key area. Following intervention work funded by The Chief Scientist Office, Scottish Government demonstrating feasibility of undertaking intervention work, I lead an investigatory team in writing a successful bid for a full randomised control trial for women attending breast screening with primary outcomes of weight loss and increased physical activity. The intervention is being delivered by trained volunteers from Breast Cancer Now and will provide unique insight into how a community based weight loss programme can assist women aged over 50 to reduce cancer risk. This work is funded as part of the Scottish Cancer Strategy with commitment to roll out if successful. The results will be available at the end of 2019 but already we can report recruitment was completed ahead of schedule and retention is over 80% (we still have 4 months of data collection). This project has real potential to make a difference to the thousands of women that attend breast screening clinics

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