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Why being overweight increases your risk of cancer

13/11/2018

We are often told that being overweight increases our risk of cancer. In fact, in the UK, obesity is the biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking, according to Cancer Research UK. But why does being overweight increase a person’s likelihood of developing cancer? A group of scientists say they now know. The team from Trinity College Dublin say the reason overweight people are at greater risk of developing cancer is because a certain cell in the body that’s used to destroy cancer gets clogged with fat and stops working as a result. Publishing their findings in the Nature Immunology journal, the team said they were able to show that the body’s natural cancer-fighting cells get clogged by fat. They are hopeful that new drug treatments can be developed that will reverse the effects and restore the cancer-killing ability of said cells. Until then, though, the best advice remains to stay a healthy weight, stop smoking and cut down on alcohol. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr Leo Carlin, from the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute, said: “Although we know that obesity increases the risk of 13 different types of cancer, we still don't fully understand the mechanisms underlying the link. “This study reveals how fat molecules prevent immune cells from properly positioning their tumour-killing machinery, and provides new avenues to investigate treatments.” [Related reading: Major study finds eating processed meat raises risk of breast cancer]

Early risers less likely to develop breast cancer, finds study

08/11/2018

Women who are larks, otherwise known as “morning people”, have a lower risk of developing breast cancer, a study has revealed. While the exact reason why remains unknown, the team of researchers from the University of Bristol in the UK say their findings are important and add to the growing understanding of how sleep affects our health. A person’s body clock (also known as their circadian rhythm) regulates when a person feels sleepy or awake over a 24-hour period. So-called morning people wake up earlier, peak earlier in the day and feel sleepy earlier in the evening. In contrast, “evening people” (night owls) get up later, peak later in the day and go to sleep later in the evening. Using a data analysis technique called Mendelian randomisation, the researchers looked at DNA snippets of more than 400,000 women. They discovered that women who were larks were less likely to have breast cancer than their night owl peers. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr Rebecca Richmond, a researcher from the University of Bristol, told the BBC: “The findings are potentially very important because sleep is ubiquitous and easily modified. “Previous research has looked at the impact of shift work, but this is showing there may be a risk factor for all women.” Nevertheless, many questions still remain. For example, more research now needs to be conducted to see whether the body clock itself is directly impacting a person’s risk of developing cancer, or if factors like night owls breaking their natural circadian rhythm to accommodate jobs is having an impact. [Related reading: Major study finds eating processed meat raises risk of breast cancer]

Major study finds eating processed meat raises risk of breast cancer

04/10/2018

A major study has found that eating processed meat, like bacon and sausages, may raise the risk of breast cancer in women. According to the review of studies involving more than one million women, eating higher levels of processed meat could result in a 9% greater risk of developing breast cancer. The research by a team from Harvard University’s T H Chan School of Public Health reviewed 15 related studies. It supports previous findings by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which suggest processed meats cause cancer. However, while the study has identified a potential link between processed meat and breast cancer, there is no clear evidence to show these types of foods are actually the cause. Furthermore, as outlined by the study authors in the International Journal of Cancer, their findings only relate to processed meat, not red meat. Bacon, sausages, salami, ham, hot dogs and corned beef are all examples of processed meat. And while it is not fully known why these foods are associated with a greater risk of cancer, it is thought that preservatives, like salt, may react with protein in the meat turning it carcinogenic. But rather than eliminating processed meat from your diet completely, the advice is simply to cut down. At present, current NHS guidelines recommend eating no more than 70g of red and processed meat a day. If you’re eating more than that on a regular basis, maybe it’s time to make some dietary changes.

Obesity set to overtake smoking as number one preventable cause of cancer in UK women, charity warns

25/09/2018

By 2043, obesity will surpass smoking to be the biggest preventable cause of cancer in UK women. That’s one of the shocking new predictions to come out of a report by Cancer Research UK. At present, around 7% of cancers in women are linked to being overweight and obese, while 12% are said to be caused by smoking. But as the number of individuals who smoke continues to fall and obesity rates continue to rise, the UK cancer charity believes that gap will completely disappear over the next 25 years (assuming current trends continue). In fact, by 2035, the percentage of cancers caused by smoking and by carrying excess weight will almost be equal (25,000 cancer cases each year related to smoking vs. 23,000 related to being overweight). However, after just another eight years (by 2043), being overweight and obese is likely to be linked to even more cases of cancer in women than smoking. Interestingly, the cancer charity says that obesity will not overtake smoking as the leading cause of cancer in men until some time later. The reason for this, though, is simply because more men than women smoke. While obesity is more prevalent among men too, it is thought to be a greater catalyst in women for developing cancer. Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK's prevention expert, said the UK government must act now to stem the tide of obesity-related cancers. “That's why we are raising awareness of the link between cancer and obesity and calling for measures to protect children, like a ban on junk food adverts before 9pm and for restrictions on price promotions of 'less healthy' products,” she said. Smoking-related cancers include: acute myeloid leukaemia lung bladder bowel cervical pancreatic stomach Obesity-related cancers include: bowel gall bladder kidney liver breast ovarian thyroid

Over 18 million new cancer cases this year: WHO

13/09/2018

One in five men and one in six women will develop cancer in their lifetime. That’s one of the stark predictions revealed in a new report from the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is based in Lyon, France. This year alone, there will be 18.1 million new cases of cancer and 9.6 million people will die with the disease worldwide. This represents a significant increase from 14.1 million cases and 8.2 million deaths in 2012. The report also predicts that by the end of the century, cancer will be the number one killer globally and the single biggest barrier to people living long lives. Looking closely at data from 185 countries, the researchers focussed on 36 different types of cancer. Lung cancer, colorectal (bowel) cancer and female breast cancer are thought to be responsible for a third of all cancer cases worldwide. Researchers have attributed the rise to the world’s growing and ageing population. That’s because more people equals more cancer, and as people get older their cancer risks grow. Moreover, as countries become wealthier, more of the people living in them develop lifestyle-related cancers. Speaking about the report, Dr. Christopher Wild, director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, said: “These new figures highlight that much remains to be done to address the alarming rise in the cancer burden globally and that prevention has a key role to play.” “Efficient prevention and early detection policies must be implemented urgently to complement treatments in order to control this devastating disease across the world.”

Belief in fake cancer causes 'rife', study warns

01/05/2018

A new study has revealed that many people in England are unsure about cancer risk factors and often incorrectly identify fake cancer causes. The survey of 1,330 people found that drinking from plastic bottles and using microwave ovens are two of the fake cancer causes people often cite. The good news is that 88% of people surveyed correctly identified smoking as a major cancer risk factor, while 80% picked passive smoking and 60% said sunburn were also causes of cancer - all of which have been proven. According to Cancer Research UK, smoking, overexposure to UV radiation and being overweight are the biggest preventable causes of cancer. In fact, the charity says that about four in 10 cases of cancer could be prevented with lifestyle changes and people need the right information to help them "separate the wheat from the chaff". Researchers from University College London and the University of Leeds conducted the survey and discovered that more than 40% of participants wrongly thought that stress and food additives caused cancer. Dr Samuel Smith from the University of Leeds said: "It's worrying to see so many people endorse risk factors for which there is no convincing evidence. "Compared to past research, it appears the number of people believing in unproven causes of cancer has increased since the start of the century, which could be a result of changes to how we access news and information through the internet and social media." Clare Hyde, from Cancer Research UK, said: "There is no guarantee against getting cancer - but by knowing the biggest risk factors we can stack the odds in our favour to help reduce our individual risk of the disease, rather than wasting time worrying about fake news."

UK millennials on course to be 'fattest generation', says leading cancer charity

27/02/2018

By the time they reach middle age, seven in 10 UK millennials (people born between the early 1980s and mid-90s) will be too fat, health experts say. In fact, millennials are on course to be the fattest generation ever since records began. In comparison, only about half of the so-called “baby boomer” generation (those born just after the Second World War) were fat at middle age. It’s a worrying revelation, especially as being fat as an adult is linked to an increased risk of developing 13 different types of cancer, according to Cancer Research UK who conducted the research. The charity said only 15% of the UK population are aware that being fat puts them at increased risk of breast, bowel and kidney cancer. Even more sobering is the fact Britain is now the most obese country in Western Europe and its obesity rates are rising faster than any other developed nation. In 1993, obesity prevalence was 15%, but that figure had almost doubled risen to 27% in 2015. Professor Linda Bauld from Cancer Research UK said: "Extra body fat doesn't just sit there; it sends messages around the body that can cause damage to cells. "This damage can build up over time and increase the risk of cancer in the same way that damage from smoking causes cancer.”

Indulgent grandparents could be damaging their grandchildren's health

16/11/2017

It’s natural for grandparents to dote on their grandchildren and give them sweet treats whenever they see them. But new research suggests this and other influences could have a negative impact on their grandchildren’s health. For the research, the team from the University of Glasgow analysed 56 different studies which included data from 18 countries, including the UK, US, China and Japan. They focused on the influence of grandparents who were significant in their grandchildren’s lives, but who weren’t necessarily primary caregivers. Three areas of influence were considered: diet and weight, physical activity and smoking. When it came to their grandchildren’s diet and weight, grandparents were found to have an adverse impact, with many studies highlighting how they feed their grandchildren high-sugar or high-fat foods - often in the guise of a treat. The researchers also found that grandchildren were perceived to get too little exercise while under the supervision of their grandparents. However, this did depend on whether the grandparents were physically active themselves or not. Furthermore, smoking around grandchildren became an area of conflict between parents and grandparents, with the latter often smoking while their grandchildren were present, even though they had been asked not to. Talking about the findings of the study, lead researcher Dr Stephanie Chambers said: "While the results of this review are clear that behaviour such as exposure to smoking and regularly treating children increases cancer risks as children grow into adulthood, it is also clear from the evidence that these risks are unintentional. "Given that many parents now rely on grandparents for care, the mixed messages about health that children might be getting is perhaps an important discussion that needs to be had."

Long-term aspirin use associated with significant reduction in colorectal cancer risk

31/10/2017

A new large-scale study has found that using aspirin long-term could slash the chances of developing gastrointestinal cancer. Of all the gastrointestinal cancers, which include pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, oesophageal cancer, stomach (or gastric) cancer and small intestine cancer, colorectal cancer is the most common in the western world. While there are a number of lifestyle changes people can make to reduce their risk of developing cancer, including avoiding tobacco, limiting their alcohol consumption, eating healthier and exercising more, an increasing number of studies suggest the use of aspiring could also help. For this latest study, Prof. Kelvin Tsoi, of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and his team set out to investigate the effect of aspirin use on gastrointestinal cancers. Over a 10-year period, the team of scientists examined over 600,000 participants and analysed how aspirin use affected their chances of developing gastrointestinal cancer. They found that aspirin users were 47% less likely to have liver and oesophageal cancer, 38% less likely to have stomach cancer, 34% less likely to have pancreatic cancer and 24% less likely to have colorectal cancer. In addition, aspirin use also significantly reduced the risk of leukaemia, lung cancer and prostate cancer.

Simple blood test can detect cancer years before symptoms appear

08/06/2017

A simple blood test that accurately detects several different types of cancer years before symptoms even appear could revolutionise how the disease is treated, scientists have said. Researchers hope the non-invasive test will pave the way for a future where the straightforward procedure could form part of routine health check-ups. It’s thought that thousands of deaths each year could be prevented with the tests as they can detect tumours at an early stage, when treatment is most effective. At present, the best method for detecting cancer is a biopsy, which involves cutting out a small piece of tumour tissue for lab analysis. However, biopsies are invasive and often painful, and a person already needs to have a tumour or at least a suspected tumour to have something cut out of it. That’s why scientists have been working to develop blood tests that can do the same, without the need for surgery. Speaking about the breakthrough, Dr Bert Vogelstein, a professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, told The Guardian: “It’s fair to say that if you could detect all cancers while they are still localized, you could diminish cancer deaths by 90 per cent.”

How waist size can predict cancer risk

25/05/2017

Men with waists over 40 inches and women with waists over 35 inches are at greater risk of certain cancers, as well as type 2 diabetes. That’s the message to come out of a study by scientists at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is an arm of the World Health Organisation. According to Dr Heinz Freisling, the lead author of the study published in the British Journal of Cancer, a person’s waist measurement is as good at predicting cancer risk as their body mass index (BMI). His advice is for people to know their waistlines. “You only need to put a tape measure around your belly button. This is easy to do and can give a person an indication of whether their risk for specific cancers is increased or not – for instance pancreas or liver cancer which are known to be related to increased body fatness or obesity,” he said. Being overweight or obese is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking and is linked to 13 types of cancer, including bowel, breast and pancreas. The study combined data from about 43,000 participants who had been followed for an average of 12 years and more than 1,600 people were diagnosed with an obesity-related cancer.

Browned Toast and Potatoes a 'Potential Cancer Risk'

24/01/2017

People who eat browned toast, chips and potatoes could be increasing their risk of cancer, according to the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA). That's because the chemical acrylamide - which is known to be toxic to DNA and cause cancer in animals - is produced when starchy foods are roasted, fried or grilled for too long at high temperatures. For example, when bread is warmed to make toast the sugar, amino acids and water present in it combine to create colour and acrylamide. The darker the colour of the toast, the more acrylamide is present. The FSA admits that it does not know exactly how much acrylamide can be tolerated by people, but it does believe we are all eating too much of it. As a result, the FSA has launched a new campaign advising people to make some small changes to the way they prepare and cook food: Always aim for a golden yellow colour when toasting, frying, baking, or roasting starchy foods like potatoes, bread and root vegetables Store raw potatoes in a cool, dark place above 6C and not in the fridge. Carefully follow cooking instructions when heating oven chips, pizzas, roast potatoes and parsnips Make sure you eat a healthy, balanced diet which includes five portions of fruit and vegetables per day, as well as starchy carbohydrates In addition to the campaign, the FSA is also working with the food industry to reduce the amount of acrylamide found in processed food. Steve Wearne, director of policy at the FSA, said most people were not aware that acrylamide even existed. "We want our campaign to highlight the issue so that consumers know how to make the small changes that may reduce their acrylamide consumption whilst still eating plenty of starchy carbohydrates and vegetables as recommended in government healthy eating advice."

iSkin App Enables People to Track Moles and Lower Their Skin Cancer Risk

08/09/2016

Almost everyone has a mole of some size somewhere on their bodies. Most of the time, we don't pay much attention to them. However, if they change shape and/or colour, we tend to take more notice. That's because abnormal moles can develop into melanoma skin cancer, which is the most dangerous form of the disease, accounting for over 10,000 deaths in the US alone annually. The good news, though, is that if diagnosed and treated early, melanoma is almost always curable. To address the fact that some people don't give their abnormal moles enough attention, the Institut Gustave Roussy in South Paris, France, launched the new iSkin application in May this year. Created by the collective "Ensemble contre le melanome", the app encourages users to take periodic photographs of their moles and skin spots, and essentially create a 'map' to track their development. This map can then be used to monitor the person's skin over time and help identify any potentially dangerous changes. The so-called maps will be safely stored on a web host approved by the government and will go some way to improving doctor-patient relationships. Patients also benefit from the app's geolocation capabilities, which tag the closest dermatologists. Eventually, the team behind the app hopes to develop a a platform for patients and specialists to exchange information so they can interact without having to wait on a waiting list or make an appointment. It should be noted, however, that the iSkin app does not replace a medical diagnosis, and anyone with any skin concerns should seek the advice of a medical professional.

Secret 'red hair gene' increases skin cancer risk

19/07/2016

It's long been known that people with red hair have an increased risk of developing skin cancer. But now a new study by investigators from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute suggests that one in every four people in the UK carries a "silent" red hair gene that significantly raises their risk of sun-related skin cancer. The secret "ginger gene" is thought to endanger carriers by exposing them to an additional 21 years of sunlight, compared to people who do not have the gene. While individuals with two copies of the MCR1 gene will often have red hair, fair skin and freckles, those with one copy may not even know they are at increased risk of malignant melanoma and are less likely to take extra care in the sun as a result. Despite not looking like your typical "easy burners", the researchers say these carriers were found to have 42% more sun-associated mutations in their cancers than non-carriers. Publishing their findings in the journal Nature Communications, the team said "All people, not just pale redheads, should be careful in the sun." Dr Julie Sharp from Cancer Research UK said: "For all of us the best way to protect skin when the sun is strong is to spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm and to cover up with a T-shirt, hat and sunglasses. Sunscreen helps protect the parts you can't cover - use one with at least SPF15 and four or more stars, put on plenty and reapply regularly." The Cancer Research UK website has further information on skin types to help determine your risk of sunburn.

A girl's breast cancer risk may be influenced by her obese father

28/06/2016

It's been thought for some time now that a mother's weight and diet during pregnancy has the potential to affect the breast cancer risk of her female offspring. But now new research suggests that obese father's also risk raising their children's chances of breast cancer, due to the way obesity alters the gene expression of sperm. Experts have long agreed that a woman's breast cancer risk is influenced by changes in genes, and approximately 5-10 percent of these gene changes are inherited. According to Sonia de Assis, Ph.D., from the Department of Oncology at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Washington, D.C., who led the investigative team, said few studies have previously investigated the link between a father's weight and an offspring's breast cancer risk in later life. Presenting their findings in the journal Scientific Reports, de Assis and her colleagues outlined how they had studied how both normal weight male mice and obese male mice influence the breast tissue off their offspring. They found that female pups sired by obese males had delayed breast tissue development, and were more likely to develop breast cancer as a result. They revealed that the obese males' sperm had an altered microRNA (miRNA) signature, which was subsequently found in the breast tissue of their female offspring. The researchers now plan to conduct more studies to see if the same is true in humans.

Nuts linked to reduction in colon cancer risk

21/04/2016

New research from South Korea shows that a nut-rich diet can reduce a person's risk of developing colon cancer. It adds to the list of health benefits already associated with nuts, such as a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke and obesity. According to the findings of the research, which was conducted by a team at Seoul National University College of Medicine, eating a serving of nuts three or more times per week appeared to have a big impact on risk. This reduction was noted in both men and women. For the study, a serving of nuts was considered to be 15g, which is actually significantly smaller than serving sizes found across the world. And while many types of nuts were used for the study, the majority of participants consumed peanuts - presumably because of their availability in South Korea. Men who ate three or more servings of nuts every week were found to have a 69% lower risk of colon cancer than those who didn't. The risk reduction in women was even greater, with 81% found to have a lower risk. Also worthy of note is the fact that the researchers discovered that nut consumption was associated with a reduced risk across all of the different areas where colon cancer is seen and different types of colon cancer. So if nuts aren't a part of your regular diet, perhaps they should be...

WHO: Processed Meats Do Cause Cancer

27/10/2015

People have talked about the possible negative effects of processed meat for a long time and numerous studies linking high consumption of red and processed meats with higher risk of colorectal cancer have even influenced public health recommendations in some countries. But now a report compiled on behalf of the World Health Organisation by a working group of 22 experts from 10 countries around the world has concluded that there is an association with eating processed meats and colorectal cancer risks. The findings, published recently in The Lancet Oncology, said that 50g of processed meat a day, which is equivalent to less than two slices of bacon, increased a person’s chances of developing colorectal cancer by 18%. Furthermore, the study said that red meats were “probably carcinogenic, but there was limited evidence to comment further. However, despite these findings, the WHO also emphasised that there are still health benefits associated with eating meat. Cancer Research UK’s advice is that people should cut down on their consumption of red and processed meats, rather than give them up completely. In fact, the organisation said that the occasional bacon sandwich would do little harm. Processed meat is meat that has had its shelf life extended or its taste changed by means of smoking, curing, or adding preservatives or salt. Bacon, sausages, hotdogs, corned beef, salami, ham, beef jerky and other canned meats are all considered “processed”. Chemicals used during the processing of the meats are thought to be carcinogenic catalysts, as is high-temperature cooking such as on a barbecue. Dr Kurt Straif from the WHO said: “For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal (bowel) cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed.”    

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