Today (6 November 2014) is an exciting day for Breakthrough’s Policy & Information team – it marks the launch in Parliament of an important piece of work we are doing on prevention with The Richmond Group of Charities, a coalition of 10 of the UK’s leading health and social care charities. Seeing as it’s only been a week since the parliamentary launch of our Demand a Fair Price campaign, it’s been a busy few weeks for the team!

Breast cancer risk factors

One of Breakthrough’s goals is to prevent 9,000 cases of breast cancer each year by 2025 – an ambitious, but we believe achievable, goal.  A key part of achieving this will be to tackle lifestyle risk factors such as obesity, alcohol consumption and physical inactivity, as around two in five breast cancers are linked to lifestyle. This isn’t about forcing people into living healthy lifestyles, or setting up a nanny state – it’s about making it easier for people to be healthy. A healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean for sure that someone won’t get breast cancer – but it does stack the odds in their favour. 

Tackling these breast cancer risk factors will also help people avoid a wide range of other health issues such as heart disease, lung disease and diabetes.  In total, it is estimated that more than 100,000 deaths every year in England are preventable. 

Working with other charities

So, that’s why we are joining our voice with some of the other major charities for these and other conditions to have a bigger impact when influencing for policy change to tackle these risk factors.  We are working together with British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK, Age UK, Asthma UK, British Lung Foundation, Macmillan Cancer Support, Rethink Mental Illness, the Neurological Alliance and the Stroke Association – all members of the Richmond Group – to raise awareness of the need for a greater focus on prevention within government and the NHS. 

Breast cancer prevention

Getting prevention right is one of the most important things our government can do to tackle not only breast cancer, but also loads of other devastating diseases as well. However, doing this will require clever thinking across health, education, transport, housing, environment, planning and social care. That’s why we are calling for a national plan for prevention, led by the Prime Minister. 

Today’s Parliamentary reception is a key opportunity to talk to MPs about our new prevention initiative and to ask them to play their part in a new partnership – across government, the NHS, public services, businesses, charities and patients – to put prevention first. This reception also offers us the chance to showcase what we, Breakthrough, are doing to help prevent breast cancer. We will be highlighting our work on physical activity and alcohol in particular during a “prevention showcase” after the speeches.

We will be following up the launch by talking to key decision-makers within the political parties, the NHS and government, asking them to take up our calls for action on prevention. In addition, the Richmond Group will be doing a follow-up piece of work to develop some useful statistics on the impact of preventable disease and also some more detailed recommendations on how best to tackle individual risk factors.

We hope you are all as excited as we are about this new initiative!

Caitlin Palframan is Senior Policy Manager at Breakthrough Breast Cancer.