And the legislation is there to protect young people – who are most at risk – from forming a habit which can be dangerous in other ways too, as we’ll see below.
But the responsibility for making sure businesses toe the line lies with Environmental Health Officers like me, in each local authority. And earlier this year I secured the very first criminal conviction under the Act.
The story began in May 2012, when I received a complaint that a 15 year old girl had suffered burns all over her body after using a sunbed in a private gym.
She was hospitalised for 24 hours, placed on a drip and – due to the severity of her burns – was off school for 15 days.
We don’t yet know whether she’s experiencing any long-term physical or mental effects. But we do know she’s said it was the first and last time she would ever use a sunbed.
Researchers have finally pinned down the link between UV radiation and gene faults that drive melanoma. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
We all need a bit of sunshine in our lives – something that’s often lacking in the Great British Summer.
But while UV light (radiation) from the sun helps our bodies to make vitamin D, which is vital for building healthy bones, there’s a dark side to UV. It damages our DNA – the genetic ‘instruction manual’ in all our cells – which increases the risk of skin cancer.
Researchers have shown that eight out of 10 cases of malignant melanoma – the most dangerous form of skin cancer – are caused by getting too much UV, either from the sun or sunbeds. There’s also good evidence from population studies to show that getting sunburned at any age doubles the risk of developing melanoma later in life, and people who have the highest levels of UV exposure also have a higher skin cancer risk.
But up until now, there’s been an inconvenient problem for researchers studying precisely how UV-induced DNA damage leads to skin cancer: the major gene faults known to be involved in melanoma don’t actually show the hallmarks of UV damage. And because UV can cause such widespread damage throughout our genome, it’s been hard to pin down exactly which other genes might be involved in the disease.
Thanks to the advent of high-tech genome sequencing technology, this conundrum may have now been solved by two research teams in the US. Their results prove beyond doubt that UV-induced genetic damage can drive the development of melanoma, and highlight important new targets for future treatments for the disease.
It’s mid-January, and while many resolutions will still be going strong, some may have already fallen by the wayside. But it’s worth sticking to those healthy plans. Living a healthy life can make you feel more energetic and relaxed, and can reduce the risk of developing cancer.
As ever, the past year’s been a busy one in the field of lifestyle and cancer prevention. In this post we take a look back over the year and pick out some of the exciting developments in research, policy and campaigns.
Some findings have hinted at new information, whilst others have strengthened our existing knowledge. And others have not so much found an answer, as posed new questions.
Can cancer be prevented? Decades of research have shown that a person’s chances of getting cancer depends on a mishmash of their genes and their environment, but also certain aspects of their lives, many of which they can control.
As our press release says, these latest calculations, based on predicted cases for 2010, show that smoking, diet, alcohol and obesity are behind more than 100,000 cancers. This is equivalent to one third of all cancers diagnosed in the UK each year.
And this figure further increases to around 134,000 when taking into account all 14 lifestyle and environmental risk factors analysed in this study.
But to help make sense of the vast quantity of information contained in the 91-page report, we’ve also put together a graphic that shows the proportion of cancers that can be prevented through lifestyle changes. It’s worth spending a minute or so looking at the key to understand how to interpret the graphic (which you can download as a larger PDF version).
‘A limited success’ is how we’d best describe September’s United Nations high-level meeting in New York, which gathered to discuss non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
This was only the second ever meeting of its kind, bringing together heads of state and health leaders from around the world. The first meeting was back in 2001, and focused on HIV/ AIDS. With NCDs set to cause up to two-thirds of all worldwide deaths over the next 25 years, it was agreed that they too need global action. Back in August we discussed exactly why this summit was too important an opportunity to miss.
But now, in the aftermath, we think the meeting could have gone much further, and we have some real issues of concern. Continue reading →