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Whats out there on the web?

What's out there on the web?

There’s been a lot in the news this month about cancer risks – although most people seem to ignore them, as Henry covered in a recent post.

Over on the NHS Choices blog, they’ve discussed whether bacon, fertility drugs, cannabis and even Facebook can cause cancer, as well as explaining how aspirin, tea and exercise could cut the risk.

The “Facebook causes cancer” story (the first scare story for the web 2.0 generation?) has also been covered by Mindhacks and the ever-insightful Ben Goldacre.
As well as looking at risks and causes of cancer, there has been an interesting debate this month about the benefits of breast cancer screening, and the information that is provided for women.

This comes after a letter in The Times from a group of health professionals criticising the Government for offering information leaflets that “do not come close to telling the truth” about the benefits and disadvantages of breast screening.

Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, Professor Peter Johnson, responded to this story by saying “The Breast Cancer Screening programme is still the best weapon we have in the early detection of a disease that affects more than 45,000 women every year. The latest research suggests that the screening programme saves around 1,400 lives every year in England alone.

“Our research has found that screening has reduced breast cancer death rates by up to a quarter in women within the screening age range, while international research found that for every 500 women screened, one life will be saved.  But it’s vital that we’re not complacent. Monitoring and improving the screening programme needs to continue to ensure it meets the needs of the UK population – particularly as more women are living longer and the older a woman is the greater her risk of breast cancer.”

The story – and the statistics – are discussed in depth on the BBC news website, and by the NHS Choices team.  And there’s one doctor’s view of the controversy over on Dr Crippen’s blog.

The world of research has also thrown up a few gems this month, with the promise of a “master switch” that can “turn off cancer”, prompting some over-excited headlines in the papers.    NHS Choices reveals that this excitement may be a bit premature – the research is still at an early stage and may not be relevant to all types of cancer.

And although they may seem unlikely lab specimens, tadpoles have provided some useful clues for scientists researching better treatments for skin cancer.  There’s more on BBC Online and NHS Choices.

Finally, looking across the Pond, Dr Len at the American Cancer Society has an interesting discussion of the effects of information provision and drug advertising on the behaviour of people with cancer.  In the UK, pharma companies aren’t allowed to advertise directly to consumers, but that situation is different in the US, which could be having adverse effects on patients.

Finally, there’s a helpful guide on our CancerHelp UK site to finding reliable information on the internet.

Kat

[Edited 23/3/09: Comments on this post have now been closed due to an overflow of spam]

Comments

Kat Arney March 7, 2009

Hi Mary,
These are myths that have been perpetuated by hoax emails, and they do not pose a significant cancer risk.
There’s more on our CancerHelp UK website about microwaving plastics here:
http://cancerhelp.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cancer-questions/hoax-email-about-cancer-treatment-and-causes
And the American Cancer Society has a brief debunking of the plastic bottle myth here:
http://www.cancer.org/docroot/MED/content/MED_6_1x_Reusing_Plastic_Water_Bottles.asp

Hope that’s useful,
Kat

Mary Bennett March 7, 2009

Is it true that heating food in the microwave in plastic dishes causes cancer (microwave dishes all seem to be made of plastic!) Also drinking water from a plastic bottle which has been lying in the car for a couple of hours.