Dr Juliet Usher-Smith, Clinical Lecturer at the Primary Care Unit, has been awarded a Cancer Research UK Prevention Fellowship of almost £450k for her research entitled Developing a very brief intervention to promote behaviour change for cancer prevention in primary care. It is estimated that approximately 40% of cases of cancer are attributable to lifestyle factors and her research will focus on whether providing information on future cancer risk to individuals can help encourage lifestyle change and how best to incorporate such information into routine practice. Juliet explains how she achieved the award and her research plans:
What was the case you made to the CRUK Prevention Fellowship?
It is estimated that approximately 40% of cases of cancer are attributable to lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol, diet, weight and physical activity, and nearly 600,000 cases in the UK could have been avoided in the past 5 years if people led healthier lifestyles. Prevention strategies are likely to require a combination of approaches targeting the underlying determinants of cancer at the population level and approaches that focus on individuals. As a GP, my interest is in individual-level interventions that can be delivered within primary care. Research has shown that many individuals have incorrect perceptions of their risk of cancer and are unaware that it is affected by their lifestyle. Most interventions targeting lifestyle change in primary care are also focused on cardiovascular disease with little discussion around cancer. The aims of this Fellowship are therefore to develop and test a very brief intervention to provide information about cancer risk to promote behaviour change for cancer prevention that could be delivered within primary care.
What made you apply for the CRUK Prevention Fellowship?
I was fortunate enough to attend a three day CRUK Innovation Workshop in February 2015 which was dedicated to developing new multidisciplinary research ideas around Risk Perceptions and Cancer Prevention. At the end of that workshop I and three other researchers at the University of Northampton and the University of Manchester were awarded funding for a 12 month pilot study exploring the views of members of the public and healthcare professionals on providing cancer risk information in primary care. CRUK were very supportive during that work and applying for the CRUK Prevention Fellowship seemed the ideal way to continue that work and build on those new collaborations.
How will you combine the research with your clinical work?
The Fellowship will fund two sessions of clinical practice and so I plan to continue working as a GP for one day a week at Queen Edith Medical Practice in Cambridge.
What do you hope to have achieved, in an ideal world by the end of the award period?
This work will hopefully provide policy makers and clinicians with an evidence-based very brief intervention to promote behaviour change for cancer prevention that could be delivered in primary care, and will inform the development of a protocol for a subsequent large-scale randomised controlled trial of incorporating cancer risk information within primary care. As part of the Fellowship I will also have the opportunity to recruit a research assistant and spend a secondment within the Public Health Directorate of the Cambridgeshire county council and work with the Policy Research Unit at CRUK and I hope that together we can begin to raise the profile of cancer prevention in primary care.
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