Dr Giota Mitrou, World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF) Acting Director of Science and Public Affairs, attended the 2018 World Cancer Congress (1-4 October) in Kuala Lumpur, and the preceding World Cancer Leaders’ Summit. In this first of two blog posts, she reflects on some important discussion points and actions arising from WCRF’s interactions with other key congress attendees.
Read part two of Dr Mitrou's blog here
Attending the congress with me were members of WCRF’s Science and Policy & Public Affairs teams, who presented at a number of sessions about our updated Cancer Prevention Recommendations and our policy work. Along with a truly broad spectrum of researchers, policymakers, health professionals, major international organisations and cancer societies – including many representatives from the Pacific regions – we had an ideal opportunity to discuss, shape and encourage future investment in reducing the global cancer burden. This burden had just been starkly highlighted by IARC’s GLOBOCAN 2018 data, showing that nearly half of new cases and more than half of the cancer deaths worldwide in 2018 are estimated to occur in Asia.
We contributed to a session on translating cancer prevention research into tangible policy actions to reduce the burden of cancer and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Our Senior Policy & Public Affairs Manager, Bryony Sinclair (pictured below), spoke on the barriers to implementing effective policy actions that tackle NCDs, such as industry interference, and later took to the plenary theatre’s main stage. This session focused on addressing the commercial determinants of cancer and NCDs, and outlined some of the common, industry-led arguments used to undermine sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) taxes, including the narrative of individual responsibility. She highlighted lessons learned from others who have successfully implemented SSB taxes, emphasising the need to be prepared with evidence, to carefully consider local context, be strategic, develop a broad base of support, scrutinise the tax design and prepare for push back. Experience tells us there will be push back – so policymakers and advocates need to be ready for it.
Another session, supported by 12 other cancer societies, and chaired by Louise Meincke, our Head of Policy & Public Affairs, deployed rapid-fire case studies to show how we can engage with different stakeholders in innovative ways to tackle the NCD burden in both middle and high-income countries. The session highlighted examples from around the world, including the Scottish Cancer Prevention Network’s use of a glossy magazine for engaging women with breast cancer risk reduction messages in a clinical setting; engaging young people as cancer prevention champions in Ireland, and working with private sector employees in Malaysia. Cancer societies need more platforms and opportunities to exchange good practices, and assess and compare approaches, to inspire and strengthen their external stakeholder engagement in a rapidly changing environment.
- In her second blog on the 2018 World Cancer Congress, Dr Mitrou reflects on opportunities and challenges in obesity-related cancer prevention, the future of cancer control and prevention, and the new International Nutrition and Cancer Taskforce.
- For more information about our policy work, click here.