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News digest – hidden ‘ginger gene’, missed targets, undiagnosed lung cancers and… Kim Jong-Un’s secret formula?

by Misha Gajewski | Analysis

16 July 2016

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  • Researchers found that a particular version of a gene commonly found in people with red-hair and pale skin was linked to greater levels of DNA damage in melanoma cancer cells. If someone has two copies of the gene variant, MC1R, they are likely to have red hair, pale skin and freckles, and are at an increased the risk of skin cancer. But the researchers also found that people who carry just one copy of the gene variant are also at an increased risk. This research helps explain why red-haired people have to be so careful about covering up in strong sun, but also reinforces why everyone should take care. The BBC and Guardian were our pick of the coverage, along with this from NHS Choices. And for more information about how to stay safe in the sun see our website.
  • As many as 1.7 million people in the UK could be living with undiagnosed lung cancer, lung disease or heart disease, according to a report and new campaign launched by Public Health England. We covered this as did the BBC and the Guardian.

Number of the week


The number of people living in the UK with undiagnosed cases of lung cancer, according to figures released by Public Health England.

  • New NHS figures show hospitals in England failed again to meet waiting time targets for breast cancer patients. The Guardian has the details.
  • The BBC and others reported on a large international study that suggests obesity puts men at greater risk of premature death than women. Obesity is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking.
  • New figures released by the Office of National Statistics showed that while survival is improving, cancer is still the number one cause of death in England and Wales. We reported on this.
  • The government’s draft blueprint for tackling obesity was leaked to The Times. It reported that a possible ban on junk food at shop checkouts may be dropped and an end to junk food advertisements before the 9pm watershed – something we are campaigning for – has not been included in the leaked document. You can read the full story if you have a subscription.
  • People whose blood cancer has returned after a stem-cell transplant could benefit from immunotherapy treatment, according to a preliminary US trial. We covered this.
  • The Scottish Medicines Consortium has recommended the immunotherapy drug nivolumab, brand name Opdivo, as an option on the NHS for advanced lung cancer patients. However, NICE has rejected the drug for patients in England and Wales. More on this on iNews.
  • The Telegraph reported on this interesting study that suggests sugar-free drinks may make us want to eat more. But the study was only in fruit flies and mice so it’s hard to say whether this holds true for humans.
  • Brexit is already having an impact on science as the Guardian reports that UK scientists were dropped from EU projects due to post-Brexit funding fears.
  • The Express claimed that beer could prevent breast cancer. But what the study behind this headline actually showed was that a specific ingredient in hops (not beer) might have anti-cancer effects. The researchers hadn’t used beer in their experiments at all and had only looked at cells in the lab, so lots more research is needed. Alcohol causes at least seven types of cancer, including breast cancer, so despite the headlines having a beer won’t help you reduce the risk.
  • The Guardian reported on new research showing stress is unlikely to cause breast cancer. For more information about stress and cancer check out our website.
  • A woman from Edinburgh who survived cancer became the first UK woman to give birth following a transplant of her frozen ovary tissue. The BBC has more details.
  • This interesting story in the Guardian talks about the future of online diagnosis and how Google and Microsoft are improving web diagnosis.
  • Quartz tells a story of an immunotherapy drug trial that was allowed to continue in the US despite three patients dying. Definitely worth a read.

And finally…

  • Kim Jong-un has revealed a secret formula for beating cancer and preventing ageing: water. But not just ANY kind of water, spring water from a mountain close to the North Korean capital Pyongyang. The water is now being bottled and sold to Kim’s 27 million subjects “to prevent cancer and ageing”, reports the Mirror. We probably don’t even need to explain why this is outrageously false, so we’ll just let you read the article and have a good chuckle. Enjoy.