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Showing people what they’re made of

15 November 2012

tenovus science of me project

A collaborative engagement project between Dr Karen Reed (Postdoctoral Research Associate and PR & Engagement Officer, Cardiff School of Biosciences) and Dr Ian Lewis (Associate Director of Research at Tenovus) has created what is “probably the world’s first lab in an ice-cream van”.

Funded by a small grant from Cardiff University Community Engagement Team, this innovative engagement project brings together the two sets of expertise to produce a small mobile laboratory unit which takes science into the community.  The mobile lab employs science engagement as a means to raise awareness into cancer research and facilitate education relating to the influences of lifestyle choices on cancer risk.

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It is estimated that more than 4 in 10 cases of cancer could be prevented by making better lifestyle choices such as eating healthily, taking regular exercise and not smoking tobacco. Despite this, a recent CRUK survey showed that more than a quarter of the general public think that developing cancer is purely down to fate. This figure rose to 40% in deprived communities and to 50% amongst smokers.

Tenovus have expertise in delivering health care messages to improve public health awareness relating to the causes of cancer, while Dr Karen Reed has expertise delivering hands on science activities relating to her research to increase understanding of “What is cancer?” and “The causes of cancer”.

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Normally used to raise awareness of skin cancer and provide sun cream and sun safety literature, the Tenovus converted Ice cream van was adapted to house a small microscope and other basic science equipment.  During its debut public appearance at the Techniquest “Science of Me” weekend the mobile lab received approximately 200 visitors. The visitors were able to see some of their own cells, learn about the variety and complexity of different types of cells and discover how DNA damage is a driving force behind cancer. Furthermore, participants were given a factsheet containing both a picture of their own cells and positive health messages highlighting some of the influences our lifestyle choices have on cancer risk.

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If you have a community event and would like a visit by the “lab in a van” we’d be interested to hear from you. Please contact Dr Karen Reed (Reedkr@cf.ac.uk) for further information.