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News digest – Tantalising adverts, sugar taxes, new gene faults and… cheese fights cancer?

by Misha Gajewski | Analysis

23 January 2016

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  • The Telegraph and Mail Online reported that that flavoured e-cigarette advertisements could be luring children into smoking, following UK research. But the study actually showed that although the adverts for flavoured products were preferred, young people still had negative views on the devices – and tobacco. We debunked this story, as well as other recent misleading headlines about e-cigarettes, in this blog post.
  • NHS England plans to introduce a 20 per cent levy on sugary drinks and food in hospital cafes by 2020. The BBC and Guardian have more on this.
  • On the topic of sugar taxes, New Scientist looked at the impact of the sugary drink tax on Mexico’s obesity problem. Read the full story here (if you have a subscription).
  • And the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) blog looked at recent research on how warning labels on fizzy drinks may discourage parents from buying them for their kids.
  • Our researchers found a new gene fault linked with an increased risk of ovarian cancer. The Telegraph and Independent reported this, as did NHS Choices. For more info here’s our press release.
  • Following on from last week’s mass coverage of Barack Obama’s cancer ‘moonshoot’, US Vice President Joe Biden promised faster US approval for cancer drugs. Reuters has the story.
  • Family and friends shouldn’t encourage cancer patients to ‘slow down’, according to a report in the Independent. For more on the benefits of exercise for cancer patients visit our website.

Number of the week


The amount of money (in pounds) per month the newly approved skin cancer drug nivolumab costs.

  • A study comparing end-of-life care across seven countries found that fewer terminally ill patients die in US hospitals compared to Europe and Canada. The study also showed that England spends the lowest amount on end-of-life care. The Mail Online has the details. And we’ve blogged about the challenges for end-of-life care in this country before.
  • Another study, reported by Reuters, found that families are happier with end-of-life cancer care that focuses on comfort rather than more aggressive treatments.
  • According to research by the King’s Fund, the UK is becoming more frugal when it comes to spending on health care. The Guardian and Independent reported that by 2020, the UK will be spending an average of £43bn a year less than our European neighbours.
  • New figures we released, in partnership with Public Health England’s National Cancer Intelligence Network, confirmed the long-standing suspicion that people diagnosed as an emergency are much more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage. More information in our press release and blog post.
  • The Mail Online, Telegraph and Independent all claimed that scented candles could kill you! This followed an experiment done on the BBC show ‘Trust Me I’m a Doctor’ which reported that some candles produce a chemical that could turn into formaldehyde in the air. Formaldehyde occurs naturally in many places, including in people, food and trees – the extra amount you’re exposed to from a scented candle is unlikely to make much difference to your cancer risk.
  • The NHS approved a £5,700-a-month skin cancer drug. The Telegraph, among others, reported this. To understand how this drug works read our blog post or watch this animation.
  • A discovery by UK researchers could lead to a better way to predict the risk of acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) returning after chemotherapy. We reported on this.
  • An interesting story on biopsies and precision medicine in Stat News.
  • The UK Government’s 100,000 Genomes Project, which is looking for the genetic details behind different diseases, recruited its first cancer patients, reports the BBC and us.
  • Also worth checking out is UCL Health Behaviour Research Centre’s series celebrating the work of Professor Jane Wardle, who died recently.

And finally

  • “Un-brie-lievable: fight cancer with CHEESE, study claims” shouts the Daily Express. But despite the excellent pun skills, the story is simply unbelievable. First, the results were only shown in rats. And second, the dose of nisin (the food preservative in cheese that’s claimed to ‘fight cancer’) used in the study was 800mg per kg – there’s only 0.25 mg found in each kilogram of cheese. Health News Review has more on these cheesy conclusions.