Charity launches ‘I CAN...’ campaign to help women adopt lifestyle changes that can help prevent cancer

20 April 2015

A leading cancer prevention charity is launching a campaign to help women take simple healthy actions to reduce cancer risk. 

World Cancer Research Fund’s I CAN... campaign is launching in the run up to Cancer Prevention Week (11-17 May) with the aim of supporting women who want to make changes for a healthier lifestyle, but aren’t sure where to start.

The charity chose to launch I CAN... after opinion surveys it commissioned showed women are increasingly aware of the links between diet, weight, physical activity and cancer but have yet to act on the lifestyle changes needed to reduce their risk.

Our latest survey carried out by YouGov earlier this year found 63% of British women link being overweight with increased cancer risk. It also found a majority are aware of the links between poor diet (59%), alcohol consumption (55%) and the disease. The charity has been tracking public awareness of the links between lifestyle and cancer since 2010.

But the gap between “awareness and action” means that people are not making changes to their lifestyle to prevent cancer. Latest figures show that, as a nation, we still eat too much saturated fat, sugar and salt whilst not eating enough fruit and vegetables. (Source: National Diet and Nutrition Survey 2014)

Amanda McLean, Director of World Cancer Research Fund UK, said: “I CAN... is our attempt to fill the gap that exists between people’s awareness of the links between lifestyle and cancer and the actions they can take to do something about it.”

A third of the most common cancer cases could be prevented in the UK annually

Half of the UK population could get cancer in their lifetime. Our research shows that being overweight or obese is strongly associated with 10 cancers and that good nutrition and being physically active are important preventative factors for the disease.

Our cancer prevention research shows that around a third of the most common cancers could be prevented through healthy eating, moving more and being a healthy weight.

Being physically active doesn’t have to mean running marathons

I CAN... highlights ways to be active that might surprise people. And the good news is: ‘chores’ count too. People who sign up to I CAN will be able count the calories burned ironing, gardening or mowing the lawn, using our ‘exercise calorie counter’.

‘… But there just aren’t enough hours in the day to eat healthily’

Lack of time can be seen as a barrier to healthy eating. But I CAN... means letting World Cancer Research Fund UK help. For over 20 years our nutritionists have been providing easy tips and advice based on our cancer prevention recommendations. People who sign up to I CAN... will have access to easy healthy recipe ideas developed by our nutritionists.

Amanda McLean continued: “We know people don’t want to be lectured. I CAN... is about putting what we know about the science of cancer prevention in front of people in a way that’s practical and shows that lifestyle changes don’t have to be difficult. We are hoping to get as many people to sign up as possible. We want people who have taken part in I CAN... to come away knowing what simple changes they can make to reduce their cancer risk.”

Jane Poole a 54-year-old mother of five from Suffolk, wasn’t aware of the cancer risks associated with diet, weight and physical activity but says she feels good when she eats well and keeps active. She knows that simple lifestyle changes don’t have to be hard and is a supporter of I CAN...

She said: “I wasn’t really aware of how eating healthy foods and moving more could affect cancer risk – my view has been that if you eat healthily, you’re going to be a lot healthier. I’m not fanatical about it – I just think that you feel a bit better about yourself when you eat healthily and you do some exercise.

“People need to give themselves a chance when it comes to being healthy. There are so many ways you can make a difference to your health that doesn’t have to feel like a punishment. Trying to completely deprive yourself of your favourite unhealthy foods is unrealistic. I think, start by cutting down on how much you consume, or try having just half a portion, or try choosing just one treat. If you do have an unhealthy treat, compensate by making sure the rest of your meals that day are really healthy - that way it doesn’t feel like you’re missing out, and you’re still making a little difference.”

On 11 May at the start of Cancer Prevention Week, I CAN... participants will get the first of 21 daily emails with healthy eating, weight management and physical activity advice, tips and suggestions developed by our science and nutrition experts.

The emails range from facts about cancer prevention from our science and research team, to tips on healthy eating from our nutritionists, participants will also be helped along with advice from women who are aware of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

The charity is also planning a series of events in the run up to the launch of I CAN... including releasing a video, a social media campaign and other activities, to promote the message of cancer prevention as widely as possible.

Journalists and bloggers can take part too, by signing up to a week-long version of I CAN... to get a taster for how the campaign will work.

Want to trial I CAN?

Journalists and bloggers who want to trial a short version of the I CAN... campaign should contact Paul Hebden, Press and PR Manager at World Cancer Research Fund, 0207 343 4273 or p.hebden@wcrf.org

Notes to editors:

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2,240 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 19th - 20th January 2015.

The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).