blood samples

Cancer blood test samples Credit: Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

  • There’s lots of headlines reporting that cancer is ‘down to simple bad luck’. This is a follow up to a paper from 2 years ago, and as we said at the time, cancer is very complicated and this study might oversimplify a much bigger picture. This excellent report from Buzzfeed digs a little deeper into the recent study.
  • A few weeks back smoking rates hit a record low in the UK, and now a new report brings good news for the global picture. Worldwide smoking rates have fallen by around 2.5% on average since a World Health Organisation treaty was introduced in 2005. But it’s not all good news – 3 in 10 countries have seen rates flat-line or rise in that time. We covered the story, as did Reuters.
  • A long-term study added to the evidence that the contraceptive Pill impacts a woman’s cancer risk, as reported by the Telegraph, Sun and Mirror. The study backed up previous work showing that while women are taking the Pill there is an increased risk of breast and cervical cancer. But at the same time there is a decrease in the risk of developing ovarian and womb cancer, and this protective effect lasts for decades after a woman stops taking the Pill. Our advice for women thinking about starting or stopping taking the Pill is to discuss it with your GP or other health professional.

  • Weight and cancer risk featured in a couple of stories, with ITV News reporting that men who were overweight in their late teens were more likely to develop liver cancer in later life. While we know liver cancer is linked to being overweight as an adult, the role teenage weight might play in adult cancer risk still isn’t clear. And the Guardian covered a study saying that gaining extra weight around the waist can increase the risk of womb cancer. As our graphic shows, the link between carrying extra weight and womb cancer was already known.

Number of the week


The fall in global smoking rates, according to a new study

  • We’ve announced a £10m investment in the PRECISION-Panc project, which is trying to find ways to treat patients with pancreatic cancer by opening up more clinical trial opportunities for them. BBC and the Herald reported on the news, and we blogged about what the project could do for patients.
  • Scientists are looking for people with a similar genetic profile to what have been dubbed ‘cancer-immune supermice’, according to the Scotsman, Express, Daily Mail and Wired. They’re building on previous work that found that some lab mice have immune systems that can fight off aggressive pancreatic cancers surprisingly easily, so the scientists are looking for humans with similar characteristics in the hope that they might use their immune cells as a treatment (though this is some way off).
  • A study looked at the effects of cancer on young people and Medical News Today reported that they often face social difficulties, highlighting that cancer survivors experience a lot more than just medical worries.
  • The Guardian ran two interesting pieces on cancer in Africa, focusing on rising rates but a lack of resources in Tanzania, and how Nigeria is tackling its 80% mortality rate.

And finally

  • News of a blood test that “detects cancer and pinpoints location…before symptoms appear” should be taken with a fairly large pinch of salt. While the idea of detecting tumour DNA in blood samples to monitor patients is sound, this study is still at a very early stage and has only been tested in 46 patients who already had a cancer diagnosis, making the Telegraph’s headline claims that the test could be used for screening premature, to say the least.