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News digest – an unhealthy ‘cake culture’, sugary breakfasts, sound waves, faulty ‘switches’ and… ketchup?

by Justine Alford | Analysis

7 January 2017

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  • Kicking off 2017 to a great start, 3 Cancer Research UK names appeared in the New Year honours’ list for their contributions to science. Two were awarded CBEs, while another received a knighthood. You can find out more in our news report.
  • Cut the cake culture in offices pleaded dentists in a bid to reduce growing health problems like obesity. After smoking, being overweight or obese is the biggest preventable cause of cancer. Find out how obesity causes cancer in this blog post.
  • Hoping to shed those extra pounds gained over Christmas? ‘Diet’, or reduced sugar drinks, may not be the way to get back to a healthy weight or prevent weight gain, say a group of experts. There are various reasons why this could be, according to the Guardian and Telegraph.
  • Northern Ireland has missed its cancer waiting times’ target again, with around a third of patients not being treated quickly enough. This concerning story was widely reported, including by the BBC and ITV News.
  • Pay attention to those food labels: kids are wolfing down around half of their daily allowance of sugar at breakfast alone, mainly from sweet cereals, spreads and juices. Eating too much sugar can lead to weight gain, which increases the risk of cancer and other diseases later in life. Read more about what we’re doing to tackle childhood obesity on our website.
  • A large new analysis has shed light on the genetic differences between the two main types of oesophageal cancer – and the findings could lead to better clinical trials, as our news report explains.

Number of the week


The cost in pounds per patient for the breast cancer drug Kadcyla

  • Requests for genetic tests for the cancer-causing BRCA genes rose in the US after Angelina Jolie went public about her BRCA status. But was this so-called “Angelina effect” a positive one? STAT News discusses the topic.
  • UK scientists have developed a new technique that uses sound to peer inside live cells without harming them. The team making the discovery believe it could one day help diagnose cancer, but more research is needed to test the technique’s potential.
  • The Prime Minister, Theresa May, is being urged by doctors to publish an anti-smoking strategy, according to a letter from The BMJ reported by the Guardian. Smoking causes many types of cancer, and the letter details how the UK needs the plan to help slash smoking rates and the devastating health problems that come with it.
  • Researchers in the US have developed an experimental drug that could help stop the spread of melanoma. But it’s only been tested in cells and mice in the lab, so we don’t know if it’ll work in people.
  • New draft guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) state that a breast cancer drug called trastuzumab emtansine (Kadcyla) won’t be made routinely available on the NHS. Our news report details why this decision was made.
  • Researchers have discovered how a faulty ‘switch’ inside certain cancer cells could help some invade their surrounding tissue and break free from the tumour. Read about the implications of the work in our news report.

And finally…

  • If only it were so simple: the Express claimed that trading ketchup for chilli sauce could prevent cancer. This misleading headline is based on a study that looked at the effects of 2 common ingredients in spicy sauces: capsaicin and 6-gingerol, which reportedly stopped tumours from growing in mice. And another study, reported in the Daily Mail, also found that capsaicin can kill cancer cells in the lab. But neither of these studies proves that chillies can prevent or treat cancer in people – so more research is needed.