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News digest – lung cancer rates, tobacco legislation, proton beam therapy, and more

by Oliver Childs | Analysis

14 April 2012

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It's news time

As ever, cancer made the headlines this week.

We’ve covered all the main stories in our round-up below.

If you want to know more, you can click on the links for more in-depth coverage.


It’s been a big week for tobacco news:

  • Yesterday, we released statistics showing that the number of UK women with lung cancer continues to rise, with more than 18,000 women diagnosed with the disease in 2009. As The Telegraph pointed out in their coverage, lung cancer rates among women have almost doubled in the last 30 years due to the boom in smoking among the ‘Mad Men’ generation of the 1960s, when attitudes to smoking were different. This graph shows the trends over the past 50 years:

Many lung cancers in women today mirror past smoking habits

  • These latest figures highlight the deadly impact of tobacco, and why we need to ensure that the drop in UK smokers of recent years continues. Undoubtedly one of the best defences against tobacco is legislation, so we welcomed news this week that large shops and supermarkets have now removed tobacco from sight.
  • We think that the next step is to remove all branding from cigarette packs. We were tremendously encouraged to read yesterday that health secretary Andrew Lansley was reported as saying he wants tobacco companies to have “no business” in the UK and that there is “no harmless level of tobacco smoking”, paving the way for a public consultation on plain packaging. This story is just starting to unfold and we are keen to be heavily involved once the public consultation on plain packaging starts – watch this space!

Other news:

  • Having Huntington’s disease or similar conditions is linked to a reduced risk of developing cancer, according to research from Sweden published this week. These rare neurodegenerative disorders share a common genetic trait, which may hold a clue to the possible cancer-protective effect.
  • A global study of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia uncovered important new information about how best to treat the disease. We discussed the implications of the study with Cancer Research UK leukaemia expert Josef Vormoor.
  • The government announced that cutting-edge proton beam therapy units will be located in London and Manchester. The NHS will invest up to £250 million in the new facilities, which will benefit around 1,500 patients a year.
  • We spotted this Guardian article – The Insiders Guide to Cancer Prevention. It’s an interesting read. On the same note, on the blog we explored why it’s so important to do research and to offer advice to people about how lifestyle and diet affect cancer risk.
  • And finally, last weekend you might have spotted reports of a “wonder jab” that kills 90 per cent of tumours. Unfortunately these reports are misleading – read our blog for more detail.