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News digest – NHS avoidable delays, sugary festive drinks, hair dye and mistletoe

by Gabriella Beer | Analysis

7 December 2019

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A quarter of cancer patients experience avoidable delay to diagnosis

Our new research showing 1 in 4 cancer patients in the UK are waiting longer to be diagnosed because of avoidable delays was widely reported. These avoidable delays included delays in seeking help, long waiting times for tests and a shortage of diagnostic staff in hospitals. Read our press release for the details.

Variation in NHS weight management programmes

There’s wide variation in NHS weight management programmes across the UK, ITV News reports. A study by the University of Glasgow found there was variation in who can access the programme and how they’re referred, as well as what the treatment involves and how much it costs. Because of these differences, it’s hard to measure how effective these programmes are and find the best way to help patients reach a healthy weight.

Study suggests exercise reduces risk of prostate cancer

New research exploring the link between genetics, exercise and prostate cancer risk was reported in the Telegraph. The study, mainly involving men over the age of 50, found that those who had genes that mean they’re more likely to be physically active, had a decreased risk of prostate cancer. But even though genetics may indicate who is more likely to work out, in reality they might not be more physically active, and a similar link hasn’t been seen in other studies. There’s still lots we need to learn about to what extent physical activity affects prostate cancer risk.

Headlines claim hair dye causes cancer

The Sun says that using permanent hair dye or chemical straighteners can increase a person’s risk of developing breast cancer. These headlines may seem concerning, but so far research on whether these products cause cancer has been inconsistent. This US study also focused on people with a family connection to breast cancer, which might also impact their risk. There are also strict regulations for toiletries and cosmetics in the UK.

Potential new migration policies could worsen NHS workforce issues

Experts have warned that both the Conservative and Labour migration policies could worsen NHS staffing issues. A new report, covered by the Guardian, has shown that almost 1 in 4 hospital staff are born outside of the UK, so getting the new immigration system right is vital to avoid adding to workforce strains.

Festive hot drinks high in sugar

Some hot drinks sold by high street coffee chains to celebrate the winter season may come with a heavy dose of sugar, according to the BBC. New research by Action on Sugar shows that some seasonal lattes and hot chocolates can have up to 23 teaspoons of sugar per serving. Sweetened milk-based drinks are currently not covered by the sugar tax.

And finally…

A woman with breast cancer, who also has multiple sclerosis, has told the Mail Online that mistletoe injections are keeping her disease at bay. The NHS doesn’t recommend this alternative therapy as a treatment for breast cancer, as there’s no evidence that shows it can treat the disease. We’ve got more about the safety and potential harms of alternative therapies on our website.