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News digest – Angelina Jolie, pesticides, liver cancer, and more

by Henry Scowcroft | Analysis

28 March 2015

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  • Angelina Jolie’s decision to have her ovaries removed dominated the headlines this week. Here’s her article in the New York Times, here’s our information for people who carry a BRCA gene fault, and here, again, is a wonderful article in Mosaic about women facing this difficult decision.
  • A new expert report on the causes of liver cancer generated a lot of headlines (e.g. this in the Independent). Most media organisations looked at the links to alcohol – for us, the more significant finding was the link to obesity, which was much stronger than previously realised. We blogged about it here.
  • The International Agency for Research on Cancer announced that it was reclassifying certain pesticides as ‘probable’ causes of cancer – something most news sites covered (here’s Nature’s balanced take). While this may sound alarming, it’s important to know that the way IARC use the word ‘probable’ isn’t the way most people use it – we looked in detail at their grading of cancer risks when we wrote about their rulings on mobile phones, and diesel fumes; here’s our information on pesticides if you’re worried.
  • Forbes took a critical look at the announcement too, while the FT brought news of the pesticide manufacturers’ displeasure.
  • Our researchers took a step towards being able to tell which bowel cancer patients might benefit from immunotherapies. More in our press release.
  • The Imperial College news site wrote about how Cancer Research UK-funded scientists there have made a fascinating discovery about how the proteins in our cells become folded into the correct shape.
  • The Mirror reported news of a patient with “a socket in his head so drugs can go direct to his brain tumour”.
  • A new way of looking at the cancer-protective effects of physical activity confirmed its benefits, the BBC reported.

Number of the week:


The number of alcoholic drinks a day that increases the risk of liver cancer, according to the World Cancer Research Fund

  • The Guardian published this thought-provoking opinion piece about ‘battle’ metaphors in cancer (make sure you read the comments, which make some fascinating points).
  • Researchers at The Institute of Cancer Research found “a new role” for a protein long known to be involved in cancer. Here’s their blog.
  • Breakthrough Breast Cancer’s blog took a look at their recent research on ‘triple-negative’ breast cancer.
  • A report by an influential group of MPs found that the NHS might be failing older women with breast cancer. The Daily Telegraph has more.
  • The idea that cancer is a ‘modern disease’ is a persistent myth – NBC had this story about a 4,200 year-old Egyptian Mummy with breast cancer.
  • BBC Health Check looked at the widespread use of betel nut in Asia – and its links to mouth cancer.
  • The MSK Cancer Center’s blog looked at the phenomenon of ‘exceptional responders’ on cancer trials.
  • A new analysis of data published last year generated more headlines about the UK’s relatively poor cancer survival. The BBC’s Nick Triggle took a closer look at how the NHS is faring.
  • A heartwarming story about an 8-year-old who wrote to us about his fascination with cancer research made the Daily Express (we blogged about him here).
  • Vox’s article, “This is why you shouldn’t believe that exciting new medical study”, is excellent.

And finally…

Do so-called ‘superfoods’ REALLY boost your health?” asks the Mail Online. No, they don’t, because ‘superfoods’ is a marketing term, with no basis in scientific reality.