The project, led by Professor Annie Anderson, hopes to combat risk factors arising from weight and activity levels
A new scheme aims to reduce women’s risk of developing breast cancer by helping them lose weight and become more active.
The £1 million pilot scheme, funded by the Scottish Government, will be led by the University of Dundee as a research trial and supported by the charity Breast Cancer Now. Women aged over 50 attending their routine breast-screening appointments will be asked to take part in the trial, ActWELL, which will run in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Breast Cancer Now is looking for 24 volunteers to train as lifestyle coaches to support the trial. They will work with women to help them make lasting changes focused around physical activity, diet and weight.
Around 4,600 women in Scotland are diagnosed with breast cancer every year and around 1,000 will lose their life to the disease. It is estimated that 38% of breast cancer cases in post-menopausal women could be prevented by lifestyle changes linked to inactivity, poor diet, alcohol consumption and weight.
The funding for this trial is part of the Scottish Government’s £100 million cancer strategy. Should the trial be a success, careful consideration will be given to rolling the scheme out to other NHS Boards.
Annie Anderson, Professor of Public Health Nutrition at the University of Dundee, and Co-Director of the Scottish Cancer Prevention Network, said, “An increased emphasis on prevention is vital if we are to combat breast cancer.
“Physical inactivity, diet, alcohol consumption and body weight are all significant risk factors in developing the disease. With the study we are looking to support women with ActWELL Lifestyle Coaches and access to services that can help reduce these risks.
“This starts with a 30-second conversation at the breast-screening centre but it could have life-changing effects. Our pilot study showed considerable benefits for women aged over 50 which is extremely encouraging.”
Health Secretary Shona Robison said, “Prevention is a key part of our cancer strategy. We know things like weight, diet and activity levels can all significantly contribute towards your risk of developing cancer. With breast cancer risk in women over 50, the link is particularly pronounced.
“By recruiting volunteers to work as lifestyle coaches, this scheme will test whether we can reduce those risks, and save women and their families from having to face up to a cancer diagnosis.”
Mary Allison, Breast Cancer Now’s Director for Scotland, said, “We’re delighted to be playing an important role in the delivery of one of the most important public health trials currently underway in Scotland. The trial has the potential to have a significant impact on reducing the number of women at risk of breast cancer in Scotland.
“Recruiting lifestyle coaches will be integral to the success of ActWELL. We’re looking for people with an interest in health and lifestyle. We want to attract those who are keen to make a difference to women’s lives.
More information on volunteering is available at the Breast Cancer Now website.