New cycles lanes funding announced

Transport Minister Norman Baker has announced £836,000 of extra funding for cycle lanes.

This is good news if you happen to live in one of the areas that will benefit: Blackpool, Bristol, Cambridge, Colchester, Darlington, Derby, Exeter, Leighton Linslade, South Gloucestershire, Southend, Shrewsbury, Woking or York.

At World Cancer Research Fund we welcome any new money for cycle lanes.

This is because there is strong evidence that improving access to cycle lanes can make a real difference in increasing levels of physical activity, which is important for cancer prevention.

You only have to look at the examples of Amsterdam and Copenhagen to see what can happen when cycling is put at the heart of a transport system.

But in the UK we are a long way off from having the kind of cycling network that can make a real difference to physical activity levels.

And this new money, while welcome, is only a tiny fraction of what is needed to make this happen.

London charity events for cancer prevention

London charity events
London charity events: raising money for cancer prevention

We often get calls at this time of year asking which London charity events people can take part in to raise money for our cancer prevention work.

Perhaps it’s something to do with the change in the weather or simply that people realise this is the time of year when London charity events start to come thick and fast.

The good news is that if you are interested in taking part in charity events in London, there are plenty you can take part in to support World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).

Our favourite – and yes, we are biased! – London charity event of all is our very own annual Beat the Banana! fun run in Hyde Park on May 12.

The idea is that participants chase a life-sized banana around the course, with the aim of beating it across the finish line.

It may not be the most competitive race – in fact many participants are happy to walk the 5K course and take in the views of Hyde Park – but it is certainly one of the most fun.

But the London charity events season really gets going with Britain’s biggest race of them all, the Virgin London Marathon, on April 17.

It is too late to get one of WCRF’s places for this year’s Marathon. Besides, if you were starting from scratch there is not enough time left to put in all the training you need.

If you already have a place, though, we’d love you to join our Marathon team, with benefits including a pasta party and post-race massage.

But if the biggest of all the London charity events is out of the question this year, then there are always plenty of other London charity events to consider.

There is the Bupa London 10,000 on May 30, while the British 10K is just over a month later on July 10.

And looking at London charity events that give you a bit more time to train for, in September there will be the adidas Women’s 5K Challenge (September 11); and Run to the Beat (September 25).

So if you want to take part in a London charity event this year, there are certainly lots of options. Details of how you can take part in all of these to help support WCRF’s work can be found on the running events section of our website.

And of course, charity events do not just happen in London. There are charity events all around the country that you can take part in to support World Cancer Research Fund.

Have a look at the charity events section on our website for more details.

A budget for charities?

2012 chancellor of the exchequer red case
The Chancellor's famous red case

On the face of it, the Chancellor’s Budget looks like good news for charities, with the promise of a change in inheritance tax to boost charitable bequests and the relaxation of Gift Aid rules to cut red tape.

But, as with most things, the devil is in the detail and we must wait to read the fine print on Mr Osborne’s latest pronouncements before being able to say with certainty what the advantages to a charity like World Cancer Research Fund will be.

The inheritance tax change seems the most straightforward of the measures affecting charities. From April next year anyone donating ten per cent or more of their estate to charity will have their inheritance tax cut from 40 per cent to 36 per cent – a move that obviously fits well with the government’s Big Society and one which the Treasury thinks will generate £300 million for charities over three years.

This welcome development should help a lot of people who give to charities when they come to make a will and hopefully ensure more of their money gets to the causes they support. But we need to see how this will work in practice.

Some accountants are already claiming the change will see other will beneficiaries, ie family members, lose out and this could act as a deterrent.

And it seems unlikely to make charitable legacies the “norm”, which is the Chancellor’s expressed aim.

The changes to Gift Aid – allowing charities to claim the money on donations of up to £5,000 without having to declare it – mean voluntary bodies can recoup some of the money they lose when Gift Aid forms aren’t filled out properly. The Charities Aid Foundation estimates this amounts to £750 million a year.

However, many would have liked to have seen a higher threshold. The Institute of Fundraising estimates this change will benefit individual charities by an average of just £1,250 a year.

Overall, the Budget is a move in the right direction and the relative prominence given to charities in the Chancellor’s speech is hopefully an indication of the greater role the government would like to see charities assume in future society.

By tidying up some of the bureaucracy and pledging to examine how payroll giving can be extended, we hope the Chancellor is showing his intent to help the charity sector as much as possible in these harsh economic times.

Success at Science Communication Awards

Science Communication Awards
WCRF UK's Annual Review was Highly Commended in the 2011 Science Communication Awards

It’s always nice to have your work recognised by your peers, so I was really pleased to attend last week’s Science Communication Awards.

The awards are held every two years and are organised by the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC).

Attending the event was a great chance to talk to people from other organisations about some of the work World Cancer Research Fund is doing.

The awards celebrate the best and most innovative science communication among the 126 AMRC member charities (of which WCRF UK is one).

We particularly enjoyed the event this year because our Annual Review was Highly Commended by the judges.

Like most charities, we produce an Annual Review each year to explain to our supporters how we’ve spent their donations and help get across information about what we do and what we’ve achieved in an accessible way.

It’s also a really important way to explain to new supporters why our cancer prevention research and education work needs support.

So, it was great to hear that the judges thought our Annual Review did a good job of communicating this.

I also enjoyed seeing what other charities are doing – we’re always on the look at for ways to strengthen the way we communicate and ensure we move with the times.

At the awards, Simon Denegri, AMRC Chief Executive, highlighted that the association’s member charities invested over £1 billion in research last year – that’s around a third of all public expenditure on medical and health research in the UK.

That means that collectively we have a big role to play in communicating to the public about science and it’s great that these awards recognise that.

Post grad student fronts mail campaign

WCRF at London Marathon
James Felce before running the 2010 London Marathon for WCRF

Oxford student James Felce has been picked to help launch a fundraising campaign for World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) because of his devoted support following the loss of his mother.

The 23-year-old raised more than £3,550 when he ran for us in the London Marathon last year – just eight months after his mum Anne died from leukaemia at the age of 54.

Now he features in a mailing being sent to thousands of homes around the country to raise the WCRF profile and boost funds for our vital cancer prevention research and education programmes.

James, originally from Southport, Lancs, said: “When mum passed away I decided the best way to remember her and contribute towards trying to stop this terrible disease was to take part in the marathon and raise money for WCRF.

“I was determined to raise as much money as possible for this cause, which I strongly believe in, and I was able to pass on the cancer prevention message to friends and family.

“It was a great day overall but seeing my family cheering at the halfway point really made me think about mum and how a part of the family was missing.”

James, who is studying for a PhD in molecular immunology at St Cross College, hopes one day to lend his scientific skills to the fight against cancer. “It’s certainly a possibility. Cancer immunology is quite big these days and there’s a lot of treatments targeting tumours.”

He added: “My mum died only two weeks after the initial symptoms and diagnosis. I would hate for others to go through what my family and I went through.

“Hopefully one day we’ll live in a world where people don’t have to feel the helplessness of watching a loved one die from cancer but to get there we need organisations such as WCRF to continue their excellent work.”

Is it OK to have a big waist?

Waist size: linked to cancer
Waist size: linked to cancer

There is a lot in the media today about a new study that has raised doubt about the idea that people with a big waist are more at risk of heart disease than people whose fat is more evenly distributed.

Obviously, the issue of heart disease risk is outside our remit as a cancer charity.

But whatever the truth about waist size and heart disease risk, from a cancer prevention point of view there is already good reason to try to avoid having a large waist.

As well as convincing evidence that carrying excess body fat increases cancer risk, weight carried around the middle seems to be particularly harmful.

There is convincing evidence that fat around the middle – or abdominal fat, as it is known – increases risk of bowel cancer and it also probably increases risk of postmenopausal breast cancer, pancreatic cancer and cancer of the endometrium (womb lining).

This is why if you are concerned about cancer risk then it can be a good idea to measure your waist as well as keeping an eye on your body mass index (BMI).

As well as our online BMI calculator, we also have a page on our website about how to measure your waist properly.

London fun run for cancer charity

Can you Beat the Banana?
Can you Beat the Banana?

We have announced that our Beat the Banana! fun run in Hyde Park will this year take place on Thursday, May 12.

Held in Cancer Prevention Week, the event is a 5km run that involves participants chasing a life-sized banana around the course and trying to beat it to the finish line.

Last year’s run was the biggest in the event’s history and this year we are hoping to raise even more money to help us continue with our cancer prevention work.

The format is the same, with the focus being on having fun rather than competitive running (although try telling that to the people at the front!).

As well as running through one of London’s nicest parks, everyone gets a free race T-shirt, a medal and a goody bag. And all for an entry fee of £12.

If you haven’t taken part before, you may remember the race being mentioned in the national press after one of the World Cancer Research Fund team bizarrely found two bananas in one skin.

We can’t promise we’ll find another “double banana” this year, but Beat the Banana! regulars will agree that we can promise a really fun event with a great atmosphere.

One thing that has changed this year is the time, as we’ve pushed the start time back to 6pm. Hopefully, this will make it easier for people to get to Hyde Park after work.

So what are you waiting for? Visit the Beat the Banana! registration page on our website and sign up today!