In the second of two posts following the 2018 World Cancer Congress (1–4 October) in Kuala Lumpur, Dr Giota Mitrou, World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF) Acting Director of Science and Public Affairs, 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.
Obesity-related cancer prevention
Alongside sessions which WCRF contributed to and led – which included explorations of how we can translate cancer prevention research into tangible policy actions to reduce the burden of cancer and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs), and looking at how we can engage with different stakeholders in innovative ways to tackle the NCD burden (as discussed in my previous post) – I also chaired a session on the opportunities and challenges in obesity-related cancer prevention. This session involved speakers from Cancer Council Victoria, the Danish Cancer Society, the Pacific Region of the McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer as well as Cancer Research UK. It discussed the role and responsibility of government in acting on the evidence highlighted by our recently published Third Expert Report; how to build more capacity to defend the evidence in practice, and the role of evidence informed advocacy in increasing public and policy awareness – including an example from Cancer Research UK’s recent obesity campaign, the backlash it received and how they dealt with it – as well as the cornerstones in the success of the Danish Wholegrain partnership. There was an overall, positive feeling that cancer societies can take a proactive role in reducing the cancer burden associated with overweight and obesity, using evidence informed advocacy and interventions to change attitudes and behaviours.
The International Nutrition and Cancer Taskforce
We also brought together a number of cancer societies, at a side meeting, to discuss the newly formed International Taskforce on Nutrition and Cancer, which aims to create more coordinated action between cancer and nutrition societies, increasing capacity and promoting activities in research, education and practice. I highlighted how many organisations are already working on their own important activities in the cancer and nutrition space, and that working together will avoid duplicating our efforts, increasing efficiency and capacity both in clinical and public health settings.
The meeting led to some valuable discussions about the challenges policymakers face when trying to implement actions that will help reduce NCDs, and how we can maintain collaborative momentum.
The future of cancer control and prevention
There is clearly much enthusiasm and optimism among cancer prevention and control organisations about tackling the rising cancer burden. We now urgently need international cooperation, with governments acting to prioritise cancer prevention, especially in low- and middle-income countries. WCRF intends to coordinate more collaborative action through our contribution to the International Taskforce on Nutrition and Cancer, and build capacity in low- and middle-income countries through provision of free, online resources such as Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: a Global Perspective (the Third Expert Report), our NOURISHING database of policy actions that promote healthy diets and our Academy Fellows programme. Our latest Academy activity is a masterclass entitled Nutrition and Cancer – from Bed to Bench to Behaviour, in collaboration with Wageningen University.
For more information about the International Nutrition and Cancer Taskforce, click here.