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Health Promot Int. 2007 Jun;22(2):137-45. Epub 2007 Jan 11.

Health promotion at NHS breast cancer screening clinics in the UK.

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Department of Health Sciences, University of York, York YO10 5DD, UK.


Suboptimal diets, sedentary lifestyles, overweight and obesity expose two-thirds of women in England aged over 50 to a heightened risk of lifestyle-related morbidities. The UK's NHS Breast Cancer Screening Programme now reaches 75% of all women aged 53-64 but provides only mammography screening. This cross-sectional survey of 413 women attending two NHS breast screening clinics in North Yorkshire found that the majority of women were interested in having diet and exercise advice at screening clinics and anticipated a neutral or positive effect on their future screening appointments. Interest was highest among older, less educated and overweight women suggesting that this may be a particularly effective medium for reaching higher risk subgroups. Women showed most interest in problem-solving advice, which provided short-term, life-enhancing benefits such as looking and feeling better, having more energy, losing weight and reducing menopausal symptoms, as well as potentially reducing their disease risk. Most appeared to find doing sufficient exercise more problematic than eating healthily and this might be exacerbated by low awareness of exercise guidelines. Given a choice, preferences were to access advice in leaflets or one to one from an expert; however, many younger, professional women were also interested in computer access. Findings indicate the need first for flexible, multi-level access, combining some broad-based information dissemination with pathways to more personalized support and secondly for the relevant 'consumer benefits' associated with better diet and exercise to be promoted as well as longer-term disease prevention. Overall, this study indicates that the UK's NHS Breast Cancer Screening Programme may be uniquely placed to provide health-enhancing advice as well as mammography screening to the majority of women in England, throughout the course of their mid-life.

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