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News digest – vaping, dirty air, ‘carbon-dating’ cancer and… gardening?

by Justine Alford | Analysis

13 May 2017

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Could gardening help tackle childhood obesity?
  • For the first time, more than half of Great Britain’s e-cigarette users are no longer smoking tobacco cigarettes, new stats show. As we explained in our news report, this is encouraging as evidence suggests e-cigarettes are much safer than tobacco. The Guardian and others covered this.
  • More on the subject of smoking: we commissioned research showing that the NHS could save a whopping £67 million in 1 year if UK smoking rates fell to 5% by 2035. Check out our press release and the coverage for details.
  • Researchers in London have effectively ‘carbon-dated’ multiple bowel tumours from a single patient as they developed and spread, providing a timeline of the disease. New Scientist has more on what we could learn from this.
  • There will be around 2 million new cancer diagnoses in the UK during the course of the next parliament, according to our latest stats. That’s more than 400,000 cancer cases being diagnosed every year by 2020. As the Mirror also discussed, this could put an already struggling NHS under even more strain. Read about what we want to see political parties focus on in the general election in this blog post.
  • Environmental factors – ranging from socioeconomic status to air pollution – can have a large impact on cancer rates, according to various reports on a new study. The research found that exposure to ‘poorer’ environments is linked with increased cancer risk.

Number of the week

67 million

The pounds the NHS could save in just one year if UK smoking rates fell to 5% within 20 years.

  • It’s too early for headlines to be claiming a cure, but a small study has shown the potential of an immune-boosting vaccine for treating some prostate cancer patients, shrinking tumours in almost half of those who took part.
  • The Express also suggested a potential cancer cure, but this time for ovarian cancer. It covered research into a potential new combination of drugs for the disease, but so far it’s only been tested out in mice so we don’t know if it’ll be effective in people.
  • Our scientists are setting out to discover whether prescription patterns given to patients before they develop cancer could help doctors pick up the disease earlier in the future. It’s hoped these trends could help inform and guide GP referrals, shift cancer detection to earlier stages and potentially save lives.
  • Scientists have read the DNA codes of several 100-year-old samples from rare childhood tumours, Nature reports. It’s hoped that tapping into such historical resources could boost research into these diseases, where few samples are available for scientists to study.
  • People with diabetes may have a lower risk of certain brain tumours, new findings suggest. Covered by The Express and others, future work needs to uncover whether this new information could be used to better understand the disease and develop new treatments.

And finally

  • It could be time to convince kids that green fingers are cool. Researchers in the US found that gardening in school could help reduce obesity in children. Obesity is linked to 13 different types of cancer in adulthood, and obese children are 5 times more likely be obese adults. This study suggested programmes for schools that include gardening could be a simple way to help reduce this growing problem, by teaching them about a healthy diet and encouraging them to be more active.