23 March 2018

A Healthy Lifestyle Doesn't Need to Be Boring, Says RCGP

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, has responded to a study by Cancer Research UK, which found that more than 135,000 cases of cancer a year in the UK could be prevented through lifestyle changes.

She said: "Living healthier lifestyles is the obvious route to better health outcomes for patients – and as GPs, who want our patients to live as long and healthy lives as possible, we will always encourage our patients not to smoke, to only drink alcohol in moderation, to be mindful of their diet and where possible to be more active.

"GPs and our teams are not killjoys but the links between unhealthy lifestyle habits and many serious health conditions, including cancer, cannot be ignored.

"We appreciate that asking patients to make lifestyle changes might seem easier said than done, but one message to get across is that living healthily does not need to be boring. Exercise, for example, can be incorporated into normal daily routines and can be made great fun and a valuable social experience - likewise, there are exciting, affordable ways to enjoy healthier meals, that incorporate more fruit and vegetables, which can allow patients to reserve unhealthier foods as an occasional treat.

"However, it can't all be down to healthcare professionals to get these messages across. We need a society-wide approach with schools, workplaces, local authorities, and public health bodies all playing a part. We also need to ensure that high-quality, cost-effective services that can help people change their lifestyle habits, such as smoking cessation programmes, provision of green spaces, and a free supply of fresh drinking water in public places, are available to those who need them.

"Finally, this study highlights that the third biggest preventable cause of cancer is overexposure to UV radiation. Whilst we want patients to be exercising and getting outdoors as much as possible, we would encourage any patients planning to spend time in direct sunlight to do so responsibly and use adequate protection, such as wearing sun block and a wide-brimmed hat – and we certainly would discourage patients from ever using sunbeds.

"Cancer is an enduring priority for the College and we have worked with partners, including CR-UK, to develop resources for healthcare professionals to support them in the early identification of cancer – and to have often sensitive conversations with patients about lifestyle."

Further Information
RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7574/7575/7633/7410
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659
The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.