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  • Research shows that moderate physical activity has benefits for patients with bowel cancer. But according to our new research, more than two-thirds of patients said they couldn’t remember being given advice to keep active after their diagnosis. Our press release has the details, and Dr Abi Fisher, one of the scientists behind the study, blogged about its implications.
  • Several outlets covered early stage clinical trial results, presented at a European conference, suggesting that radioactive implants placed inside prostate tumours may improve survival over traditional radiotherapy treatment – something that will need confirming in larger studies. The Guardian and the Telegraph covered the news.
  • A “Toothbrush that checks your DNA for onset of cancer”? This doesn’t exist (yet) and the technology is still in an experimental stage.
  • Wired magazine featured a video from the University of Cambridge, exploring how researchers work with animals to help develop new cancer treatments.
  • The benefits of a high-fibre diet in reducing bowel cancer risk could be due to its effects on gut bacteria, according to a preliminary international study. This study attracted a lot of media coverage, and some of it was a bit misleading. Here’s our more balanced take, and NHS Choices took an in-depth look too.

Number of the week:

25

Five year survival for children’s cancer has increased 25 per cent in the last two decades, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

  • New figures showed that skin cancer cases in Scotland have increased by almost a third in the past decade. The BBC has more.
  • The Mail Online covered intriguing new research into the phenomenon of ‘Chemo brain’.
  • Well this is new. An adult movie, based on Game of Thrones, that apparently “seeks to raise awareness about testicular cancer”. (Here’s our advice on checking for cancer, which contains fewer dragons but is a little less risque).
  • Prostate cancer could be ‘wiped out’ by new treatment”, said the Telegraph and others. “In mice!” replied NHS Choices.
  • The Wall Street Journal published an excellent summary of the bigger picture in cancer research.
  • We already know that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can affect the risk of certain cancers, and the Mail Online reported that some types of HRT could still increase the risk of breast cancer eight years after stopping them. Actually this study showed that breast cancer risk was increased for about six years after a woman stopped taking HRT, which is similar to what other research has shown. You can read more about HRT and cancer risk on our website.
  • Reports about “going out in the sun” being protective against pancreatic cancer were misleading. The findings come from something called an ‘ecological study’ that can’t really prove what prevents, or causes, cancer. We’ve written about these before (in relation to oxygen and lung cancer) so give this blog post a read as all the same points apply.

And finally

  • In another iteration of the ‘simple test’ meme, the Telegraph and Independent both splashed on some early exploratory research on how the DNA in our cells changes as we get older. This was translated by some enthusiastic headline writers into “New test can predict cancer up to 13 years before disease develops”. We’ll let the following quote, from the research paper behind the headlines do the talking for this one:

“Our low sample size increases the possibility of our findings being due to random chance and/or our measures of association being artificially high”

Nick

Comments

Doc Mills May 5, 2015

Why are CRUK so quick to dismiss ecological studies?

The comments on the oxygen / lung cancer research were such that the researchers took the unprecedented step of writing a strongly worded rebuttal.

Yet much of CRUK’s cancer prevention advice is based on ecological studies. Isn’t this a touch hypocritical?

Ecological studies are hugely important – to test hypotheses, to validate further research and also to show causation (when used in combination with other evidence). The latter is especially important in situations when controlled trials are difficult (such as sun exposure).

The link between lung cancer and smoking was determined in this way. And one of the researchers into the smoking link – Sir Auston Bernard Hill – developed Hill’s Criteria so that ecological studies can be used to deomnstrate causality.

Lack of sun exposure as a cause of cancer passes Hill’s Criteria (PMID: 20046584).