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Cancer & Us: exploring the link between food and cancer

  • Posted by Paolo,
  • Engagement & Involvement Specialist,
  • in Listen up,
  • February '23

Working with people from Gorton to hear what matters to them about cancer research

Cancer affects 1 in 2 people in Greater Manchester, but it’s a topic that can be hard to talk about. As part of Cancer & Us: Community Conversations we partnered with Gorton-based Healthy Me Healthy Communities (HMHC) and cancer researchers to have open and honest conversations about cancer and research.

Engagement with communities affected by health inequalities is key to ensure research benefits everyone.

When research teams work in partnership with community organisations like HMHC and take the time to listen to people’s experiences, it helps to build better relationships and increase understanding of people’s needs.

What matters to people?

The partnership began with listening to people’s views and experiences of cancer research. The project involved a mix of people from Gorton both with and without personal experience of cancer. They told us:

  • There’s a lack of accessible information in their local community about cancer prevention and having a say in research. People felt there is ‘nobody to ask’ in their community in an informal way, mentioning fear of being judged.

  • That ‘eating healthy’ is not affordable to them. To be useful, advice and guidance needs to be tailored to their context.

  • How much they worry about misinformation, especially around food and cancer.

  • They wanted to be part of a project that enabled them to learn new skills whilst also raising awareness of cancer research and prevention in their community.

  • That people want to talk about health and health research, as long as it’s done in a way that works for them and they’re able to ask questions without fear of judgement.

Finance will determine what food you buy – how does poverty affect prevention?


Cook & Chat

In collaboration with HMHC and research dietitians Michelle Harvey and Mary Pegington, we designed a 5-week programme of cooking workshops and a community event.

During these workshops, people from Gorton met with researchers to learn new recipes and have informal conversations about cancer, prevention and research.

People cooked a range of foods, from tacos to minestrone. Coming together with food helped to make the sessions informal, friendly and, most important of all, tasty. Preparing and sharing food were starting point for discussions about what mattered to them.

Participants explored topics that included specific questions such as ‘Does tinned food cause cancer?’ and much broader ones such as ‘How does research take into account the experiences of people from marginalised communities?’.

People wanted more activities that enabled them to come together with people with similar lived experiences in a more informal way.

At the end of the project we invited more people from Gorton to come with their own questions about cancer prevention, learn a new recipe and share a warm meal.

What people said about taking part

People felt they had learned new things about cooking and were more confident in sharing information with people around them and having a say in research. Importantly, people felt their experience was valued throughout.

I feel I am more aware and relaxed in the knowledge of talking about cancer, research and food.


People also told us how comfortable they felt having the opportunity to ask questions that mattered to them in a setting they knew.

We worked with everyone to make videos that showcase the conversations that took place. You can watch them on this page.

If you’re interested in having a say in cancer research and make a difference to people in the future, you can join the Get Vocal on Cancer Network.

This blog is part of Cancer & Us: Community Conversations. Find out more on Twitter and Facebook by following @letsgetvocal and #CancerAndUs