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News digest – multivitamins, lung cancer treatment, drop in tobacco smuggling, and more

by Emma Smith | Analysis

20 October 2012

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It’s news time

As this blog post ‘goes to press’, we’re rushing around the office preparing for the TV event of the year – Stand Up To Cancer. By the time you read this, Channel 4’s inaugural show on Friday evening will have finished, and hopefully raised lots of money for life-saving cancer research.

  • Wondering why we’re so excited about Stand Up To Cancer? Then this blog post is worth reading.
  • And if we needed a reminder of why it’s important to Stand Up To Cancer, then Tuesday’s sobering statistics about cancer costing 170 million years of healthy human life every year certainly fitted the bill. Here’s our news story.
  • Also on Tuesday, we released news about the results of a major clinical trial for lung cancer patients, testing a new treatment called erlotinib. In a surprising discovery, the appearance of a painless skin rash tells doctors how well the patient is responding to the treatment. This finding could help doctors quickly and simply identify who will benefit the most from this drug.
  • The BBC, Daily Mail, The Express and others covered a US study this week that suggested taking a multivitamin pill every day moderately lowers the risk of cancer for some men. Unfortunately it’s not quite that simple, and the research had some important limitations. Our overall message remains the same – vitamin and mineral supplements are no substitute for a healthy diet and don’t have the same benefits as getting naturally occurring nutrients in your food. Here’s more info from our health information team.
  • And on Wednesday we revealed the findings of a large-scale study of more than 400,000 women, showing that the age a woman starts her periods and experiences the menopause affects her chances of developing certain types of breast cancer. This kind of study is key to understanding the role hormones play in driving breast cancer and how we may be able to tackle it better.
  • Around one in five women eligible for cervical cancer screening in England have missed their most recent cervical screening appointment, according to a new report. Our news story looks at the stats.
  • A team of scientists in France have shown that radiotherapy after surgery significantly lowers the risk of prostate cancer coming back up to a decade after treatment, among men with early prostate cancer that’s at high risk of coming back. Read the details in our news story.
  • The BBC covered a study from Scotland looking at the dangers of second-hand smoke in cars. Looking at nearly 50 car journeys where the driver smoked more than four cigarettes, pollution was shown to be triple safe limits. Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of second-hand smoke, so we hope this evidence will encourage people to think twice before lighting up in a car with children in.
  • In other tobacco news, official figures published this week show that rates of tobacco smuggling into the UK have fallen despite earlier claims from the tobacco industry that tax rises would prompt an increase in the illicit trade. Here’s our news story.

And finally

  • On Thursday the Express told us about a new pill made from vegetable extracts that could be the latest weapon against an aggressive, hard to treat type of breast cancer called triple negative breast cancer. But it’s much too early to say whether these pills are safe and effective in people. And it doesn’t mean that eating vast quantities of broccoli or sprouts will help prevent or treat cancer. Our advice remains to eat a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and maintain a healthy body weight.