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News digest – breast cancer, tattoos, marijuana and… car crashes?

by Henry Scowcroft | Analysis

11 July 2015

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What's been hitting the headlines this week?
  • Our researchers in Cambridge solved a long-standing mystery in breast cancer: why women with ‘double-positive’ cancers seem to have better outcomes. The story was covered by a range of news outlets (here’s the BBC’s version), and we explored it in detail in this blog post.
  • A new analysis, reported here in the Guardian, suggested that the benefits of breast screening might be less clear cut than previously thought, highlighting that there’s no single definitive answer to the question of how the benefits and harms stack up. Our line remains the same –  women invited for breast screening must have good, balanced information, that’s easy to understand, to help them decide whether to take up the offer. More about breast screening on our website.
  • And on a similar topic, both the Guardian and The Conversation each published interesting opinion pieces in reaction to a new booklet about the facts behind screening (see last week).
  • A team at our UCL Health Behaviour Research Centre wrote this piece for The Conversation, discussing their research on how women make sense of possible symptoms of gynaecological cancers.

Number of the week


The percentage of overweight teenagers who our researchers found underestimated their weight

  • And the same team also released new research on how teenagers perceive their own weight – as covered here by the BBC (here’s our press release)
  • Men in the US diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer are becoming more likely to opt to ‘watch and wait’ than seek active treatment, according to a new study covered by Reuters UK.
  • The Daily Mail covered early stage work we helped fund, looking how breast cancers spread (and so, potentially, how to stop this from happening).
  • Our researchers in Cambridge made an intriguing discovery about the role of so-called ‘jumping genes’ in oesophageal cancermore in this blog post.
  • Could less chemo be better for children with a form of kidney cancer called Wilms’ tumour? Our researchers think so.
  • Researchers studying the cannabinoid chemicals in marijuana claim to have worked out a way to separate its pain-relieving effects from it’s infamous psychoactive ‘highs’, according to research covered by Wired. While this could lead to better cannabis-derived drugs in future, the research was carried out in mice so there’s still a way to go yet. Read more about the evidence on cannabis and cancer in this blog post.
  • A discovery by team in Sheffield, working with fruit flies, suggests that a readily available arthritis drug might one day be used to treat myelodysplastic syndrome – a condition which increases the risk of certain types of leukaemia. MedicalXpress has more.
  • We heard worrying reports – here in the Independent – about teenagers getting ‘sunburn tattoos’. We shouldn’t need to point out why this is a bad idea, but here’s our advice on staying safe in the sun.
  • Researchers at Warwick Uni are developing a new, improved version of cancer drug cisplatin, according to MedicalXpress
  • We were reminded that the dangers of smoking don’t stop at cancer, with reports that tobacco use is potentially linked to an increased chance of developing schizophrenia. The BBC has this report, and we also found this blog post on the Mental Elf really interesting.

And finally…

  • The Daily Mail did some questionable things with statistics, in order to make a point we find hard to disagree with. Comparing traffic deaths to skin cancer rates in this way isn’t terribly sensible – the deaths occur in very different age groups, so comparing ‘years of life lost’ is much more complicated than the article makes out. But that’s not to downplay the fact that more than 2,000 people in the UK die from melanoma skin cancer each year – a statistic we’re working hard to change.