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News digest – NHS woes, skin cancer insights, prostate cancer map, and… orgasms?

by Henry Scowcroft | Analysis

23 May 2015

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  • The NHS’s difficulties remained in the spotlight as the week wore on, with the continued failure of over-stretched NHS Trusts to hit their cancer waiting time targets. The story was widely covered (here’s the BBC piece, and here’s the Guardian’s coverage) and we reacted to the shocking news, and explored the latest figures, in this blog post.
  • The Government confirmed its pre-election commitments over NHS funding, the BBC reported.
  • And (also via the BBC), the Scottish Government announced extra funding for cancer medicines.
  • In research news, a Cancer Research UK-funded trial showed that women with ovarian cancer fared better if they had chemotherapy before surgery. The Daily Mirror covered the story; here’s our press release.

Number of the week


The percentage of cancer patients in England who began treatment within 62 days of being referred by their GP. NHS England’s target is 85 per cent.

  • A groundbreaking international study of advanced prostate cancer patients opened up the possibility of dozens of new trials for the disease. We covered the research on our newsfeed, which also got widespread coverage in the media.
  • Fascinating research from UK scientists looked at the genetic changes that develop in our skin cells over time. The researchers say this will lead to a new understanding of how skin cancers develop. More on our newsfeed.
  • Having a family history of breast cancer doesn’t make a difference to a woman’s outcome, according to a Cancer Research UK-funded trial in Southampton. The BBC reports.
  • Tobacco companies announced they were preparing to sue the UK Government over its plans for standard tobacco packs, according to the Telegraph.
  • New statistics show a 500,000 increase in the number of UK e-cigarette users over the last year, the Daily Mirror reports.
  • Smoking, obviously, is incredibly bad for you. But how harmful is nicotine itself? It’s a pertinent question given the rise in e-cigarette use. Reuters takes look at a fascinating topic.
  • ITV Tyne-Tees looked at trials of a new drug – rucaparib – developed in Newcastle laboratories with Cancer Research UK funding.
  • Immunotherapy – treatment to help the body’s immune system attack cancer – is a hot topic right now. The New York Times looked at this promising new field.
  • And as a graphic demonstration of the immune system’s power, watch this astonishing video from MRC-funded researchers in Cambridge, showing immune cells attacking cancer cells. It was picked up by the Daily Mail (who mistakenly said it was happening ‘inside the body’ – it’s not, it’s in a lab):

  • The Times (£) reported on news from France, where a new government bill means cancer patients can now be prescribed cycling and swimming to help treat their cancer.
  • The BBC’s Horizon took an engaging look at the science of binge drinking. Watch it on BBC iPlayer, and read our information about the links between alcohol and cancer here.
  • A fascinating study looked at the potential protective effects of early childhood infections and vaccination on childhood leukaemia. Science Magazine took a detailed, balanced look, as did Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research’s blog (they part-funded the work)
  • Naughty naughty? A new investigation found that MPs from all parties have been taking hospitality freebies from the tobacco industry.
  • Headlines warning that taking paracetamol while pregnant could increase the child’s later cancer risk were wide of the mark. As NHS Choices explains, the study was only carried out in mice, and they weren’t pregnant.
  • And after similar early-stage findings, the NHS also dampened down alarmist headlines claiming a link between hay fever and prostate cancer.
  • ‘No, we’re not all being pickled in deadly radiation from smartphones and wifi, writes Professor Simon Chapman in The Conversation.

And finally…

  • ‘Could ejaculating more often decrease a man’s risk of prostate cancer?’ asked the media this week. It’s a story that keeps coming back, but our message remains the same: there’s no concrete evidence that this is the case, and we’d need to see a lot more research to reach a final conclusion on this one.