A study by two Scottish universities has revealed that using breast screening clinics to introduce lifestyle advice has the potential to improve women’s health.
Researchers at the universities of Aberdeen and Dundee found that a programme supporting women to make dietary changes and increase physical activity doubled the likelihood of clinically significant weight loss after just 12 months.
A professor at Dundee’s School of Medicine, Annie Anderson, said: “Our study has shown that structured guidance on physical activity and diet using important techniques from health psychology could have a major effect on breast cancer risk.
“We all know that diet and exercise contribute greatly to our overall health, but sometimes the direct links between these factors and cancer can be forgotten.
“Promoting heathier lifestyle options at a time when women are attending breast screening appointments could be the reminder that triggers many into adopting habits that could potentially save lives.”
The ActWELL initiative, funded by the Scottish Government, was introduced to women attending regular NHS breast screening appointments. After 12 months, those who opted to participate in the programme reduced their weight, a contributory cause of cancer, by an average of 2.5kg.
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With obesity a known factor for breast cancer, experts believe that expanding such an initiative could have an important influence on rates of cancer and other obesity related diseases for women.
Professor at the University of Aberdeen, Shaun Treweek, said: “ActWELL has shown that volunteer coaches, working with a charity, really can help reduce women’s breast cancer risk. The support offered by volunteers was key to ActWELL’s success.”
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “We are grateful for the work which has gone into this study and welcome its findings which are an important step forward in our understanding of delivering health interventions to drive behaviour change.
“The outcomes of the study are now being considered as part of our ongoing work to further reduce inequalities and support cancer prevention work.”