Giota Mitrou, Director of Research at World Cancer Research Fund
Ten years ago, when the Scottish Cancer Prevention Network (SCPN) was formed, World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) had just published our Second Expert Report along with our 2007 Cancer Prevention Recommendations. These Recommendations turned our strong evidence into practical and straightforward advice for anyone to reduce their risk of developing cancer through diet, nutrition and physical activity. SCPN was instrumental in helping WCRF engage the public and policy makers in the cancer prevention conversation and raising awareness of the lifestyle changes that can be made to reduce cancer risk.
We continued to collate and analyse the evidence on diet, nutrition, physical activity and cancer through our Continuous Update Project (CUP). In March 2018 we launched our Third Expert Report with updated Recommendations. These were largely consistent with the Second Expert Report, reflecting the stability of the global research findings in this field, and emphasised the importance of an overall lifestyle of healthy behaviours for cancer prevention.
So, after being the first to provide strong evidence for the link between obesity, alcohol, red and processed meat and cancer risk, and having strengthened that evidence over three decades, what next for WCRF and cancer prevention? With improvements in diagnosis and treatment and better understanding of prevention, the number of people living with cancer and beyond is increasing globally.
However, we still know very little about the role of diet, nutrition and physical activity in relation to outcomes after a diagnosis of cancer, and in managing symptoms or in childhood cancer survivors. Other areas of interest we hope to expand include a better understanding of how different risk factors affect different cancer subtypes, and how dietary and lifestyle patterns affect cancer risk over the life course. These new areas will be driven forward by our new CUP Transition Panel; a group of global independent experts who will provide guidance so we can turn these priorities into practical, strategic, research goals.
While it is more widely accepted that diet, nutrition and physical activity affect our risk of cancer, we still have a long way to go before preventable cancers become a thing of the past, and before we develop a better understanding of what advice to provide to people living
with cancer. We hope that this new phase of the CUP will go some way to improving our understanding.