It’s time for a roundup of the week’s top cancer news

  • Tuesday saw two big stories about skin cancer. First, we released new figures showing that the middle-aged have been hit by a surge of potentially fatal skin cancer. Since the end of the 1970s, malignant melanoma cases in British men and women in their 50s have soared from fewer than 500 a year to almost 2,000 in a year. Skin cancer is easier to treat when found at an early stage, and it is important to report any unusual changes to the skin to the doctor without delay.
  • Also on Tuesday, a European study showed that sunbeds cause more than one in 20 cases of melanoma in Europe – here’s our news story. We’ve known for some time about the link between sunbed use and skin cancer, but this is the strongest evidence yet. Our health team discussed the key messages from the new study.


  • Good news on Wednesday – new research showed that bowel cancer patients diagnosed through screening have a better chance of beating their disease than those diagnosed after developing symptoms. This shows that the UK bowel screening programme is working. But we think the UK Governments could make their programmes even better, and potentially save more lives, as we wrote about in this blog post.
  • We published a survey (press release) showing that the majority of smokers and ex-smokers – 85 per cent – regret ever starting the potentially deadly habit in the first place. And a third smoked the same brand of cigarettes as their family and friends when they first started buying a specific brand regularly. Tobacco is highly addictive and is very hard to quit – especially if people have started at such a young age. That’s why we’re campaigning for plain, standardised packaging of cigarettes – to give children one less reason to start the deadly habit.
  • A molecule that regulates cholesterol metabolism in the liver could also have a role in the development of liver cancer, according to US research published this week. The work hasn’t gone beyond the lab yet, but finding ways to restore the molecule might slow tumour growth and offer clues into new ways to treat the disease in some liver cancer patients.
  • US research published on Thursday found that a small number of aggressive brain tumours called glioblastomas could be down to DNA damage that joins two genes together. Chemicals targeting cells that contain this so-called ‘gene fusion’ dramatically slowed the growth of glioblastomas in mice. If this early promise can be translated into a new drug – and there’s a long way to go – it could be a vital treatment for some patients with few other options.
  • We noted a very popular article on the BBC website this week was about salt and cancer. This and other stories were triggered by a report from the World Cancer Research Fund, confirming that too much salt contributes considerably to the number of people getting stomach cancer in the UK. Around three-quarters of salt comes from processed foods, so improved labelling – such as traffic light labelling – could be a useful step to help consumers cut down. NHS Choices have a good summary of the report.
  • We also spotted this fascinating interview with Professor Karen Vousden, director of our Beatson Institute for Cancer Research in Glasgow. Karen talks about why she went into cancer research and her work on “the infamous” p53 protein, which changed the face of cancer research when it was discovered in 1979 (again, by Cancer Research UK scientists).

And finally

  • For those interested in a longer read, this is a thought-provoking article about newer ‘targeted’ cancer drugs and whether or not they are living up to their much-touted potential of causing fewer side effects than older drugs.