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  • It’s going to be a bit of a scorcher this weekend. So it’s important you take heed of this week’s findings from our researchers in Manchester: sunscreen alone can’t be relied upon to protect against melanoma – the most serious form of skin cancer. So if you’re out and about, make sure you cover up and wear a hat. The findings received a huge amount of media coverage, including these articles in the Mail Online, the BBC and the Guardian (and here’s our press release).
  • And our scientists also released worrying figures about sunbeds – half of all underage sunbed users have been burnt at least once, with all of the children who used unsupervised, coin-operated sunbeds reporting at least one case of sunburn. The Mail Online and the Telegraph have more.
  • A new study suggesting that women who eat a lot of red meat in early adulthood might have an increased risk of breast cancer attracted a large amount of media attention this week, but very few articles (with the exception of the BBC and the Guardian) placed the study in context with previous studies – so we wrote this blog post to show why the evidence just isn’t there yet.
  • There were a few stories this week about the immune system. The first, from our researchers, showed that women with breast cancer are more likely to survive for five years or more if they have a certain type of immune cell in the tissue around their tumour. ITV News picked this up, and you can read our press release for more info.
  • Experimental drugs currently in trials for leukaemia may boost the immune system to help target other cancers too, according to early stage research working with mice. The Telegraph (with a slightly over-hyped headline) and the Mail Online covered the study, and we had this on our news feed.
  • The Telegraph explored the fascinating ways in which the body’s immune system could be harnessed to target cancer – called ‘immunotherapy’ – something we’ve blogged about recently too.
  • The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published the final guidance on making the immunotherapy drug ipilimumab (Yervoy) available as a first treatment for patients with advanced and inoperable melanoma. The Telegraph covered the announcement.
  • And this month’s podcast also explores immunotherapy, as well as new pancreatic cancer research and the reliability of Wikipedia.
  • Moving away from the immune system, new research found that one in five people who develop particular cancer symptoms – such as bleeding from their bottom – waited more than three months before seeing their doctor. Read more on this in the Guardian and the Mail Online.
  • A report from the think tank Demos found that the NHS could save £10 million a year if more women went for cervical screening. The Telegraph covered this: we had this article on our news feed, and we blogged about how we think the cervical screening programme could be made even better (clue: it’s NOT by changing the age range).
  • US researchers found that women recovering from breast cancer could be doing more exercise, which is known to improve the chance of survival. The BBC has more.
  • The Guardian covered new research looking at ‘ageism’ in the NHS: life-extending surgery is less likely to be offered to people aged 75 and older who have lung cancer, but who are otherwise in good health, and whose cancer has not spread. Something we’ve been concerned about for some time.
  • This interesting blog post from The Institute of Cancer Research covers how cells commit suicide – a process called ‘apoptosis’ – and how cancer cells can dodge these instructions.
  • And this article from the Mail Online picked up the topic of triggering cancer cell suicide in leukaemia, but the mentions of “breakthroughs” and “paradigm-shifting discoveries” are too soon in reference to this research as it has so far only been tested on cells in the lab.
  • Excellent news: the Republic of Ireland announced its plans to introduce standardised tobacco packaging, making it the first country in Europe to do so.
  • And a report from Australia showed that plain packing laws, which were introduced there in 2011, have helped reduce the amount of tobacco smoked in the country.
  • This strengthened the calls from over 600 medical professionals urging the UK government to speed up plans to introduce plain packs here as well. The BBC has more and we covered this on our news feed.
  • Science Minister David Willetts announced £48 million of new investment to help fund research projects aimed at tackling health problems – including cancer. Our news story has more and we also had this guest post from Labour MP, Liam Byrne on his vision for science and research in the UK.
  • A new study covered by the Mail Online suggests women with a large number of moles may be at a slightly higher risk of breast cancer, which could be linked to hormone levels. But the link disappeared when known breast cancer risk factors were taken into account – so don’t worry there’s nothing here to suggest moles could cause breast cancer.
  • Nobel prize-winning scientist Sir Paul Nurse spoke of the potential impact Scottish independence could have on medical research. Read more in the Telegraph.
  • The BBC’s Robert Peston wrote this article on the importance of early diagnosis in cancer.
  • This article from the Telegraph explores our Women of Influence initiative, which we’ve also blogged about here.
  • We continued our partnership with the Guardian by following Lyn, who has stage four lung cancer and is taking part in clinical trial using immunotherapy.

And finally

  • It’s hard to avoid the fact that the World Cup has just kicked off in Brazil, so to get on the bandwagon with a science twist, here’s who would win the tournament if it were based on a country’s Nobel Prize haul (you’ll spot a decent result for England, helped on by two of our researchers – Sir Tim Hunt and Sir Paul Nurse – who along with Leland Hartwell, shared the 2001 prize for Physiology or Medicine).

Nick

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Comments

Nick Peel July 11, 2014

Hi Dr Mills,
Thanks for your questions, we have contacted our researchers directly to help answer them – here’s what they said:

Q: The article in Nature states that sunscreen with “UVA superior” protection was used. Is this equivalent to 4* in the Boots star rating system? If so, would UVA 5* sunscreen protect against damage?

“This is equivalent to 4 stars. Indeed, our study does not address what the impact of UVB 50, UVA 5 stars would be on the mice. We think that if sunscreen were completely protective, then it would be as effective as when we used cloth as coverage in our work with mice.”

Q: Do the researchers know the bandwidth(s) which caused the damage (UVA or UVB or both)?

“This is a very important question. Our experiments involved both UVA and UVB, but we have not yet looked at the individual contribution each of these bandwidths may have on the development of cancer. More experiments are needed for this purpose and we are currently working on those now.”

Q: Are the researchers planning other trials? With reflected, cloudy day or behind windows light? Or with UVA 5* sunscreen, different sunscreen brands, or melanin (i,e. dark skin or a tan)?

“We are addressing the question of bandwidth, we are not addressing questions of reflected cloudy days or behind windows, as in all these settings UV light is present and we can infer from other studies looking at people that they are scenarios where individuals are not protected and therefore susceptible to damage from UV radiation. We are not testing different brands of sunscreen at the moment, as the active ingredients protecting us against UV radiation are often shared among brands or are chemically similar. In our study, cloth was the best protector against UV radiation. We are not currently repeating our experiments with UVB50/5*UVA.”

You also may find this information about whether glass can stop UV interesting.

Q: The study was funded by CRUK with public money (from charitable donations), but the published article is restricted to Nature subscribers or can be bought for £22! Shouldn’t publically funded research be available to the public?

To answer your fourth question, about open access publishing: we believe that our research should be made available to all who wish to read it as soon as possible after it has been published. We have a policy that states this should be within six months of publication. Releasing papers immediately often incurs a cost, which researchers can struggle to meet, sometimes because the grant that funded the research has finished. We are currently working with other funders to solve this problem, and we hope to see many more of our papers available immediately, and all available within six months.

Nick, Cancer Research UK

Dr Mills June 26, 2014

“sunscreen alone can’t be relied upon to protect against melanoma”. Interesting study which raises more questions:

1. The article in Nature states that sunscreen with “UVA superior” protection was used. Is this equivalent to 4* in the Boots star rating system? If so, would UVA 5* sunscreen protect against damage?
2. Do the researchers know the bandwidth(s) which caused the damage (UVA or UVB or both)?
3. Are the researchers planning other trials? With reflected, cloudy day or behind windows light? Or with UVA 5* sunscreen, different sunscreen brands, or melanin (i,e. dark skin or a tan)?
4. The study was funded by CRUK with public money (from charitable donations), but the published article is restricted to Nature subscribers or can be bought for £22! Shouldn’t publically funded research be available to the public?