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News digest – Ireland: ‘yes’ to standard packs, ‘normal’ prostate cells not so normal, plums and more

by Nick Peel | Analysis

7 March 2015

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  • Great news: Ireland became the first European country to vote ‘yes’ to introducing plain, standardised packaging for cigarettes – now we just need our own MPs to do the same in the next couple of weeks. Read more about the Irish vote on The Guardian, BBC or our own news site. And the graphic below shows what standard packs are and why they could be so effective.


  • Prostate cells that look normal down the microscope may be hiding genetic mutations that could develop into cancer, according to new research from our scientists. The Independent covered this, and we blogged about the study.
  • The Be Clear on Cancer lung and bowel cancer campaigns boosted the public’s knowledge of symptoms and encouraged more people to see their GP, according to one of a series of papers published in a special edition of the British Journal of Cancer. Here’s the press release, and we blogged about the progress being made.
  • UK scientists found that measuring the activity levels of certain genes could identify more aggressive forms of breast cancer (we helped support this work).
  • We published two important reports on tobacco: one looks at the removal of marketing ‘Power Walls’ in shops, while the other explores the impact of the move to shift public health budgets (including for stop smoking services) to local authorities. Here’s our press release, and this blog post unpacks both reports.
  • A poll found there was strong public support for measures looking to protect children’s health. The Guardian and Mail Online have more on this one.
  • The New York Times interviewed a US immunology expert about his research looking to turn the body’s own immune system on cancer.
  • And the same newspaper also published this fascinating piece on why onions have larger genomes than people (the answer is linked to the phenomenon of so-called ‘Junk’ DNA).
  • People’s understanding of ‘overdiagnosis’ in cancer screening is low, and they have varying opinions of how much is acceptable, according to a study published in The BMJ this week.
  • This blog post from the team at the UCL Health Behaviour Research Centre looked at new research on people’s attitudes towards cancer.
  • A cancer clinician wrote this excellent article in the Guardian, about the challenge of discussing ‘alternative’ therapies with cancer patients.
  • And the Guardian continued the ‘alternative’ therapy theme with this blog post about how media reports of patients rejecting traditional therapy can be damaging to other patients.
  • This article from The Conversation looked at how fruit flies are helping scientists learn more about cancer. We’ve blogged about the power of working with flies before in our Science Snaps series.
  • NHS England has spent at least £100 million in the last 11 years dealing with legal claims related to cancer, according the data acquired via Freedom of Information requests. The Guardian has more.
  • An electronic ‘cancer risk tool’ is being rolled out to more than 4,000 GP practices to test if these computer support systems can help with diagnosis. Pulse covered this, and we’ve blogged about the technology before.
  • Smoking ban laws will be enforced in communal areas in prisons for both staff and inmates. The BBC, Mail Online and The Guardian were among the many media outlets to cover this.
  • BuzzFeed News had this interesting story from the US about how prenatal blood tests have actually led to a cancer diagnosis in a small number of pregnant women following the discovery of tumour cell DNA in the blood samples.
  • The Guardian covered the launch of an early stage lung cancer trial that will test modified bone marrow cells that target tumour cells.

And finally

  • This article from the Express has it all: antioxidants, superfoods and accidental plum creation. But unlike the plum in question, the implied cancer prevention potential touted in this article doesn’t leave a “delicious jammy taste” – in fact, it rather soured our week. Read more about so-called ‘superfoods’ on our website.



Plum image from Flickr, under CC BY-SA 2.0