Skip to main content

Together we are beating cancer

Donate now
  • Science & Technology
  • Health & Medicine

News digest – Cancer’s ‘Achilles heel’, e-cigs, vegan diets and… condoms cause cancer?

The Cancer Research UK logo
by Cancer Research UK | Analysis

5 March 2016

0 comments 0 comments

  • Our scientists uncovered a potential ‘Achilles heel’ on the surface of cancer cells, which helps give us important clues that could one day lead to personalised treatments using patients’ own immune systems. The BBC, Guardian, Financial Times and many more covered this story. And here’s our press release and blog post for the full scoop on the story.
  • Our researchers found that women from ethnic minorities in the UK were more likely to believe that cancer is incurable and is down to fate, which makes them less likely to visit their GP if they notice something is wrong or participate in screening programmes. The Daily Mail covered this, here’s our press release and one of the researchers behind the study wrote this for the BioMed Central blog.
  • The Independent and The Times (subscription needed) reported on the historic moment when a British woman became the first cancer patient to try a new immunotherapy treatment. For more information on why immunotherapy is such an exciting area check out this interview we did with our chief clinician, Professor Peter Johnson, on our blog.

Number of the week


The amount of US dollars per year the American federal health system and private health insurers waste buying cancer drugs that are thrown out.

  • This piece in The New York Times caught our eye. A US study found that because of the way some cancer drugs are packaged, wasted drugs cost the US healthcare system $3 Billion (£2.1 Billion) a year. 
  • From as early as 2017, e-cigarettes could be taxed at higher rate reports the Guardian and Financial Times.
  • And the BBC reported that a health bill in Scotland that is set to pass will make it it illegal to buy e-cigs under the age of 18.
  • Also in vaping news, a new study showed that more than 800,000 people used e-cigarettes in England as part of an attempt to quit smoking. The Independent and ITV News have more.
  • The Scientist Magazine reported that stress could help cancer spread, which while interesting, was only a mouse study. There’s no strong evidence that stress levels affect the chances of humans surviving cancer.  
  • In case you didn’t hear it, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a fascinating two part documentary on the ‘Cancer Moonshoot’ that’s been making headlines recently. Listen to it here.
  • A study reported by STAT News might have debunked a long held myth about skin cancer: the more moles you have the more likely you are to get melanoma. The US study found that the number of moles a person has was not a good indicator of cancer’s aggressiveness. In fact, results showed the exact opposite effect. For more information on melanoma screening read this.
  • The Telegraph reported on an American study that showed how a daily dose of aspirin could help reduce the risk of cancer, particularly bowel cancer. However there are possible side effects from taking aspirin, including internal bleeding, and more research is going on to work outwho would get the best balance of benefits and risks of side effects, how much aspirin they should take, and for how long.  We’ve written about the growing evidence in this area before on our blog.
  • A study found that combining two types of treatments – one of which was developed following early research from our scientists – could delay the need for chemotherapy in advanced breast cancer patients by an average of nine months. The Mail Online has more on this story.
  • The Telegraph reported on a new study that showed patients who receive radiotherapy for prostate cancer have a 70 per cent increased risk of secondary cancer.
  • The Mirror and ITV News reported on a study by the World Cancer Research Fund showing that men who ate a vegan diet were less likely to get prostate cancer. This could be a real effect but it could also be down to these men having healthier lifestyles. We’ll need more research to reach a conclusion. For more information about how eating healthily can help prevent other types of cancer check this out.

And finally…

  • The Telegraph and Daily Mirror, among others, reported that the World Health Organisation claimed that a chemical (called MBT) found in some types of plastic, such as in condoms and babies’ dummies, ‘probably causes cancer’. But this was misleading as Professor Tom Sorahan, of Birmingham University, told the Mail Online, saying that the small amounts of MBT in everyday products were not likely to be harmful. Any potential increase in risk was actually found in those manufacturing the products and exposed to large quantities of chemicals for a long time.