New breast cancer trial seeks volunteers

Health Secretary Shona Robison.
Health Secretary Shona Robison.

A new scheme will 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 focussed 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 per cent of breast cancer cases in post-menopausal women could be prevented by lifestyle changes linked to inactivity, poor diet, alcohol consumption and weight.

The ActWELL pilot is a research trial led by the University of Dundee. The funding 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.

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 risk of breast cancer in Scottish women.

“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.”

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.”

The ActWELL pilot is being led by the University of Dundee with the Universities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling also involved. Anyone interested in volunteering as a lifestyle coach can get full details and an application form on the Breast Cancer Now website.

The closing date is May 12. Successful applicants will receive full training and successful applicants must be available for their first training sessions on June 12 and 13.