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News digest – HPV vaccine, global diets and NHS drug decisions

by Ethan Meyers | Analysis

6 April 2019

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An image of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine
Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

HPV vaccine programme appears to be producing great results in Scotland

Starting with some positive news: multiple outlets, including The Guardian, ITV News and New Scientist, covered research showing the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination programme in Scotland is linked with a dramatic drop in the detection of cervical cell changes that can become cervical cancer. Virtually all cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV, and this research shows why the HPV vaccine programme is important. If you want to find out more about how HPV vaccination could cut cervical cancer rates in the future, we have a blog post for that.

Cancer survival on the rise overall in England

More good news: the Mail Online and The Sun reported on new figures from the Office for National Statistics showing an overall rise in cancer survival one year after diagnosis, from 62 out of 100 people surviving in 2001 to 72 in 100 people in 2016.

Bowel cancer self-testing kit in action

BBC News shared the personal story of Wendy Lyons, whose bowel cancer was diagnosed early after completing the new faecal immunochemical test (FIT) after going to her GP with symptoms. The test costs the NHS about £15 per person, as opposed to the much more invasive colonoscopy, at £400 per person. FIT tests are due to be sent to everyone over 60 in England this year as part of the national screening programme but will be tested at a different threshold than the test offered to patients who present with symptoms.

A raft of cancer drug decisions

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence published three new sets of guidance for cancer drugs on the NHS in England.

  • A new drug combo was approved for some patients with advanced breast cancer, after the treatments were shown to slow disease progression and delay the need for chemotherapy in a clinical trial. Our news report has the details.
  • A combination of immunotherapy drugs got the green light for patients with advanced and aggressive kidney cancer. The combination has been shown to slow the progression of certain kidney cancers compared with standard treatment. We also covered this one.
  • And finally, a prostate cancer hormone therapy won’t be offered on the NHS any earlier in the treatment plans of patients living with the disease, after it failed to pass a cost-effectiveness review. Our news report has more on this too.

Sloppy sunscreen skills could leave eyelids at risk

BBC News covered a study that asked 84 people to apply both sun protection factor (SPF) moisturiser and sunscreen to their face. Researchers found nearly 17% of the face wasn’t covered with SPF moisturiser and 11% with sunscreen, particularly around the eyelids. Wearing a hat, sunglasses and spending time in the shade is a better way to protect your skin from too much sun.

Asbestos, still toxic

Two decades on from the toxic material asbestos being banned, The Telegraph reports that it’s still killing 5,000 people per year. As this week is Global Asbestos Awareness Week, the Institution of Occupational Health and Safety (IOSH) is calling on organisations to more responsibly manage potential exposure to asbestos, which can cause cancers like mesothelioma.

Potential link between IVF and small increased risk of childhood cancer

US scientists found a small potential link between IVF and cancer risk in children. The Telegraph reported that the risk of childhood cancer increased from 1.9 cases in 10,000 non-IVF births to 2.5 cases in 10,000 IVF-born children. But the study stresses that it cannot directly attribute this rise to IVF itself and have speculated at other causes.

And finally

A huge study of diets out this week shed light on how what we do and don’t eat affects our health. The BBC had a standout explainer about the research, reporting that diets with too much salt, too few wholegrains or too little fruit cause more deaths around the world than smoking, accounting for 1 in 5 deaths globally. The major health impact was through cardiovascular disease, but bad diets were also linked to cancer deaths.