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News digest – alcohol and cancer, sugar crackdown, cancer-hunting viruses and… bad bacon?

by Justine Alford | Analysis

6 January 2018

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  • As many decide to start the new year on a health kick by giving up booze for Dry January, timely research has unravelled how alcohol damages DNA in certain cells, shedding important light on how alcohol can cause cancer. Our study was widely reported, and you can check out this blog post for the science.
  • NHS hospitals across England will stop selling sugary drinks from this summer, according to the Telegraph. This move is part of a wider plan – which includes restricting the sale of high-calorie foods – to encourage healthy eating in hospitals and reduce obesity rates.
  • Public Health England launched a new Change4Life campaign aimed at promoting healthier eating in children, calling on parents to limit snacks to no more than two a day and to encourage their children to pick healthier options that are under 100 calories. The BBC and Guardian have the details.
  • Scientists in the UK are developing artificial intelligence that could aid lung cancer diagnosis in the future, according to unpublished research picked up by the BBC. The companies promoting the tech say it could save NHS resources and speed up disease diagnosis, if further tests prove it works.
  • Another group of UK scientists is also working on a blood test that could help pick up ovarian cancer earlier, according to New Scientist. They’ve shown that detecting bits of tumour DNA in the blood might help spot the disease in its early stages, although this has yet to be tested in a clinical trial.
  • Two separate studies found that infecting tumours with cancer-targeting viruses could boost the success of immunotherapy. The research in brain tumours and breast cancer included people and mice respectively, suggesting that viruses may alert the immune system to the presence of a tumour. Check out our news report and other coverage for details.
  • Women who aren’t happy with the size of their breasts could be less likely to carry out self-checks for signs of breast cancer, suggests a small new study reported by the BBC and others. As we pointed out though, there’s no need to check your breasts regularly, but it’s important to get to know what’s normal for you and tell your doctor if you notice anything unusual.

And finally

  • Bacon hit headlines this week after a new British study found a link between eating processed meat and a small increased risk of breast cancer in some women. The study reported that women who ate more than 9 grams of processed meat a day – the equivalent of a few bits of bacon or a couple of sausages each week – had a slightly greater risk of developing the disease than those who didn’t eat any processed meat. But as we told The Times, the study didn’t take into account other important factors that affect breast cancer risk, so the jury’s still out. Read this blog post for everything you need to know about processed meat and cancer risk.