Can mobiles cause cancer?
Mobile phones hit the headlines again this week as a US cancer researcher recommended that staff should limit their use of their phones because of the potential cancer risk. It’s a controversial issue that has been fuelled by constant see-sawing media stories about studies that find a link and others that do not.
Let’s take a look at what we already know about mobile phones and cancer.
One of the biggest stories so far this week has been about abiraterone – an experimental new drug for prostate cancer that could potentially treat “80 per cent of patients with an aggressive form of prostate cancer“.
So what’s the story all about, and should we believe the hype?
Nothing excites health journalists (and their readers) more than a story about the latest “superfood”. From pomegranates and watercress to Goji berries and even chocolate, we’re bombarded with tales about cancer-fighting fruit and veg.
Reading the news, you might be led to think that a diet of red wine and jam is all you need. And just this week the media is hailing broccoli juice as the next ‘cure for bladder cancer’.
Ed’s already gone into some detail as to why “superfood” stories are often scientifically misguided, and how it’s unlikely that eating these foods can cut cancer risk. But naturally-occurring chemicals do have their place in the fight against cancer – for example, aspirin (originally derived from willow bark) is being researched as a cancer- preventing drug.
And while we definitely don’t endorse glugging broccoli juice as a treatment for cancer (the Daily Mail doesn’t count as a peer-reviewed journal) and – contrary to the news report – we’re not investigating the specific juice recipe in question, we are funding a study to test whether a chemical found in broccoli can help to curb the development of cervical cancer. And that’s not all – we’re also funding research to get to the scientific root of some of these so-called “superfoods”.
It’s a bit of a quiet week on the blog, so apropos of nothing much, here’s a little video we made about the IBIS-II trial that Professor Jack Cuzick‘s running, with Cancer Research UK support.
More info, and a transcript, here
More Cancer Research UK videos on YouTube here
Apart from the red wine/breast cancer story Ed blogged about on Tuesday, a couple of other stories in the media this week had us wondering if these were the first signs of silly season taking hold this ‘summer‘.
To kick off the week, the Independent on Sunday warned the nation about the toxic properties of the PVC shower curtains.
Now, Cancer Research UK is all for responsible legislation against potential environmental hazards – indeed, banning smoking in the workplace was perhaps the single biggest blow against environmental carcinogens this country has seen in recent times.
Cancer Research UK-funded scientists working on an experimental treatment, initially thought to be helpful for only a minority of patients, have found evidence that it might be able to benefit many more people than first thought.
Although their name suggests an indigestion remedy rather than a chemotherapy, PARP inhibitors are part of a new generation of cancer drugs – and Cancer Research UK has been working on bringing them to the clinic for over a decade.
These drugs are highly targeted to people whose cancers are due to specific genetic faults. Early trial results suggest they can be very effective. But could they work on cancers with other genetic errors?
Apparently, we can all relax. According to the Daily Telegraph, “A glass of red wine a day could help to prevent breast cancer, a new study shows [emphasis ours].”
There are two fairly substantial problems with this conclusion. The first and most important, is that alcohol actually increases breast cancer risk – and all types of alcohol at that. To put it bluntly, if everyone who read the headline went out and started drinking red wine regularly, more women would get breast cancer. More on this later.
The second issue, and the reason for the emphasis in the opening paragraph, is that the study didn’t show that a glass of red wine a day could help to prevent breast cancer. Here’s what the results actually showed: