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News digest – Obesity, ‘Holy Grail’ breast cancer prevention, contagious cancer and… broccoli?

by Misha Gajewski | Analysis

25 June 2016

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In the week that Britain voted to leave the EU there were also some important cancer stories.

  • More than 7.6 million new cases of disease linked to being overweight or obese could be diagnosed in the UK by 2035, including 670,000 cases of cancer, according to the Obesity Health Alliance. The Telegraph, Daily Mail among others covered this story. And here’s our press release.
  • And while we’re on the topic of obesity the BBC and others reported that the office cake culture is a ‘danger to health’ fuelling obesity and poor dental health. If sweet temptations are making it hard for you to stick to eating healthily, try some of our top tips.
  • Our researchers found that fewer, higher doses of prostate cancer radiotherapy over a shorter period could be just as effective in treating the disease. Shorter overall treatment ultimately means fewer trips to the hospital, and less disruption to men and their families. It’s clear that this approach is safe and effective, so it’s now up to the NHS to ensure all men who are suitable are offered this treatment immediately. It will save NHS resources and benefit men. The BBC covered this as did many others. For a more in-depth look at the study read our blog post.
  • The Guardian reported on a new Australian study which found that an osteoporosis drug targets a set of molecular signals that could help prevent breast cancers in women at risk of the disease. And while the laboratory results are interesting it’s early days and by no means the ‘Holy Grail’ discovery some headlines seemed to claim. For a more balanced take on this story check out our news report.

Number of the week


The number of new cases of cancer linked to obesity in the UK by 2035.

  • The British Medical Association called for e-cigarettes to be banned in public places such as bars and restaurants. But Public Health England has opposed the suggestion, highlighting that there’s no evidence e-cigarettes cause harm to those around them unlike second-hand smoke from cigarettes. The Independent has covered the debate. You can get answers to commonly asked questions on e-cigarettes on our blog.
  • The Conversation had this interesting piece on how e-cigarettes could be beneficial for public health.
  • Early research might give clues as to how cancer cells survive when they spread through the body, reports the Daily Mail. The study found two signalling molecules that help cancer cells attach themselves to their surroundings. The researchers hope this discovery could lead to treatments that prevent metastasis.
  • A study published on Monday linked going to university or being married to an increased chance of being diagnosed with a brain tumour. While it sounds worrying, the link is most likely to do with socioeconomic factors rather than biological. For example wealthy people with higher levels of education could be more likely to recognise symptoms and get a diagnosis. Either way STAT News does an excellent job of explaining this research and putting it into context.
  • The Atlantic had this fascinating article on the phenomenon of contagious cancer in the animal kingdom, specifically in clams.
  • New research from the Institute of Cancer Research in London found five new genes that play a role in the development of some bowel cancers. The Daily Mail has more details on this story.
  • According to the Mirror a Government minister has revealed that the HPV vaccination could be offered to schoolboys to decrease risk of cancer, if recommended by the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations. Currently the HPV vaccine is offered to all girls between the ages of 11 and 14. For more information on the vaccine see our website.
  • This interesting article in Science Magazine looks at two new studies showing that cancer cells evade the immune system by contorting themselves to fit between other cells. But this evasive manoeuvre can burst the membrane that encloses a cell’s nucleus and damage its DNA. The results of these studies could ultimately enable researchers to design drugs to prevent cancer cells from migrating to new locations.
  • Hodgkin lymphoma patients can be spared the serious side effects of chemotherapy thanks to high-tech scans that can predict the outcome of treatment, according to a study funded by us.

And finally…

  • We love headlines that give divine powers to unremarkable food. This week broccoli is apparently a ‘miracle’ vegetable if you believe the headlines. While eating your greens is good for you, don’t place too much stock in them cutting cancer risk. Rather than ‘superfoods’, focus on a healthy and balanced diet.