OVERWEIGHT women will be urged to get active through the health service as part of a £1 million project aiming to slash rates of breast cancer in the over-50s.
Experts believe as many as 38 per cent of cases of the disease in women who have reached the menopause could be avoided through lifestyle changes, including better diet, more exercise and cutting down on alcohol.
Researchers are now recruiting volunteer “life coaches” to work with women in four Scottish cities who agree to be part of the trial. If it demonstrates clear benefits the approach will be rolled out more widely.
About 4,600 women in Scotland are diagnosed with breast cancer every year and about 1,000 will lose their lives to it.
The ActWELLproject will ask women over 50 in Edinburgh , Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee whether they wish to take part when they attend for routine breast screening appointments. The trial, led by Dundee University, is funded under the ScottishGovernment’s £100million cancer strategy and is also supported by the charity Breast Cancer Now.
Now the project is recruiting 24 volunteer lifestyle coaches, who ideally will have coaching or counselling experience or qualifications, to work one-to-one with women focusing on physical activity, diet and bodyweight and encouraging them to make changes.
Those taking part in the trial will reveive two face to face lifestyle counselling sessions and nine follow-up support phone calls.
Health Secretary Shona Robison said prevention is a key part of the fight against cancer. “We know things such as 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: “The trial has the potential to have a significant impact on reducing the risk of breast cancer in Scottish women.
“We are 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.”
Annie Anderson, Professor of Public Health Nutrition at Dundee University, and co-director of the Scottish Cancer Prevention Network, said trial participants would benefit from the lifestyle coaching but would also gain access to services that could help reduce their risk of developing cancer.
“This starts with a 30-second conversation at the breast screening centre but it could have life changing effects,” she said. “Our pilot study showed considerable benefits for women aged over 50 which is extremely encouraging.”
Those who come forward to be volunteer coaches, through the Breast Cancer Now website, will receive full training before being put to work. The closing date for applications is May 12.