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News digest – ovarian cancer blood test, obesity in Scotland, cancer waiting times in Wales and statins

by Gabriella Beer | Analysis

24 August 2019

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An ovarian cancer sample made up of cancer cells, healthy cells, and support proteins.

Experimental blood test may detect ovarian cancer earlier than current tests

Our scientists in Belfast have developed a test that can pick up signs of the most common type ovarian cancer, says The Telegraph. According to the lead researchers, the experimental test has the potential to detect this hard-to-treat disease up to two years earlier than current methods. Now they need to see if it can pick up ovarian cancer in a larger group of people.

Campaigners call on Scotland’s First Minister to tackle obesity crisis

Health campaigners have called on the First Minister of Scotland to act on junk food deals, in a bid to tackle the nation’s obesity crisis. According to the BBC, around 20 health charities and professional bodies, including Cancer Research UK, have signed a letter urging Nicola Sturgeon to introduce legislation that will help regulate the promotion and marketing of foods high in fat, sugar and salt.

Calorie labels on menus in Scotland proposed

More on obesity in Scotland: in a bid to encourage healthy eating, The Scotsman covers an important proposal by Food Standards Scotland (FSS) to implement calorie labels on restaurant menus. FSS encouraged urgent action saying that around a quarter of the calories consumed in Scotland comes from food eaten out of home.

Certain statins may reduce liver cancer risk in people with chronic Hepatitis B and C

The Express covered research suggesting a possible link between a certain type of statin, which is used to reduce cholesterol, and the risk of developing liver cancer. The Swedish study found that people with chronic liver disease, prescribed fat-soluble statins had a reduced risk of liver cancer. Over a 10-year period, more than 3 in 100 people taking the medication developed liver cancer compared to around 8 in 100 of those not taking it.

Antibiotics study gives insight into gut bacteria and bowel cancer

According to The Sun, scientists in the US have found a link between a certain type of antibiotic and an increased risk of developing bowel cancer. This finding adds to evidence that gut bacteria plays a role in cancer starting, but in a twist of events, they also showed that some of these bacteria-killing drugs were protective against rectal cancer. Lifestyle details for those taking part in the study, like diet and levels of physical activity, weren’t taken into account during calculations, all of which can impact risk. So further work is needed to solidify the link.

Wales first to introduce single waiting time target for cancer patients

Wales is the first UK nation to introduce a new single waiting time target for people with cancer, reports the BBC. All patients will now have their waiting time measured from when cancer is first suspected, not from when they are first referred for tests. It is hoped this new target will drive improvement of Wales’ diagnostic services and help them to address issues such as not having enough professionals to carry out these tests.

Teen smokers hits record low

The number of teenagers who smoke has hit a record low, according to The Independent’s report on new NHS figures. More than 13,000 pupils aged 11 to 15 across nearly 200 schools in England were asked about their smoking and drinking habits with every 16 out of 100 out of participants saying they had smoked a cigarette in their lifetime. This is down from 19 in 100 in 2016 and 49 in 100 in 1996.

And finally…

There’s always a lot of interest around cannabis and cancer treatment and this latest research is no different. An experimental drug that contains a chemical derived from the cannabis plant has been shown in lab tests to kill pancreatic cancer cells in a dish. The Independent reports this early stage research, that also shows if the potential treatment is given to mice with pancreatic cancer, the disease stopped getting worse and boosted their survival. Now the chemical cocktail needs to be put through its paces in clinical trials to see if it’s safe and effective in people with this devastating disease. You can find more about cannabis and cancer in this blog post.