Update: This post was written before the General Election. For our reaction to the result and to find out what it means for cancer, read this post.
Without political action, the life-saving research we fund wouldn’t have much of an impact.
Whether it’s a clinical trial testing a new drug, working out the best way to prevent more cancers or diagnose them earlier, political decisions help bring research to the people who need it.
Over the past nine months we’ve been hard at work, asking all election candidates to join the fight to Cross Cancer Out, ahead of the General Election tomorrow.
And with just one day to go, we’ve had conversations with more than 1,110 election candidates from all political parties; that’s a third of all those standing. Our aim? To make sure that cancer isn’t seen as a ‘done deal’, and remains high on the political agenda.
We’ve been focusing on two things that we think politicians should make a priority. And as you can read in these guest posts from four of our Ambassadors, these priorities – diagnosing people earlier, and making sure they’re offered the best possible treatments, whether radiotherapy, surgery or cancer drugs when appropriate – are really important to those affected by cancer too.
By tackling all these issues together, politicians can make sure cancer patients have the best chance of survival – and that’s the message we wanted to share with all election candidates.
So how have we done it?
Our Ambassadors in Westminster for Parliament Day 2014
Since then, nearly 11,000 of our supporters have shared their personal stories with their election candidates, showing how cancer affects every family across the UK and explaining why beating cancer should be a priority for them if they get elected into the next Parliament.
We’ve also been taking our campaigning into the community. Armed with local statistics and our key campaign messages, our Ambassadors have been having face-to-face meetings with candidates, attending important local meetings where members of the public can ask candidates questions about issues of concern in their local area – and, importantly, hear their responses.
This has ensured our General Election campaign has stayed at the front of potential MPs’ minds.
Numerous election candidates have visited their local Cancer Research UK shop. They have been meeting some of our fantastic shop volunteers, and finding out about our campaign and what they can do in their local area to help those affected by cancer if they’re elected.
These visits were targeted at the real battleground areas for election campaigning, where it’s unclear who will win the seat. This meant we could speak with all the different parties. In total, we saw 26 candidates visiting 11 shops across the country.
Visiting our shops
To help people understand the work we do, it’s best to show them. And tours of our research centres have been a key part of our work, connecting MPs, who may not know about our research, with our scientists in the lab near them.
With the opening of the Francis Crick Institute next year, this is something we hope to do a lot more of over the next five years – a great opportunity for MPs to don a lab coat and hear first-hand from researchers about their life-saving work.
Visiting our centres
Drumming up wider public support has been crucial for getting our message across. Back in February we organised three public stunts in London, Birmingham and Manchester. More than 5,500 new supporters helped us cover our ‘CANCER’ structure with crosses, illustrating how the combined force of the voting public will help Cross Cancer Out.
With articles like this one about “who is #winning at Twitter”, it’s clear that this election has gone digital. And with live blogs and regular updates to polling figures the media plays a vital role in reaching people, including policy makers.
We’ve asked supporters to post a ‘pen pledge’ and election candidates have also been getting involved by tweeting their support for the campaign.
And we were delighted that our oversized ‘prescription’ for the new Government really caught the media’s attention.
Our supporters have been sharing their ‘pen pledges’ and the ‘giant prescription’
This is the first election in modern times where it’s expected that no party will win an overall majority.
All the parties have published their manifestos, outlining what they would do if in Government, and we’ve taken a closelook at them to see what they mean for cancer and research. All that’s left to do now is wait for the polling results, and then get to work ensuring that the next batch of MPs play their part in helping to Cross Cancer Out.
Lara Stanley is a senior campaigns officer at Cancer Research UK
Radiotherapy has long been a cornerstone of cancer treatment. And it’s particularly important in treating prostate cancer – a disease that affects a huge number of men (more than 40,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in the UK).
The treatment men have depends on what stage their disease is diagnosed. For those diagnosed early, when their cancer is contained inside the prostate and hasn’t spread (so-called ‘localised’ cancer), doctors have three options: daily radiotherapy; surgery to remove their prostate; or monitoring the patient for signs of their cancer becoming more aggressive.
In practice, around 16,000 men each year receive radiotherapy, which is extremely effective. But this can sometimes cause side effects too – and they can be serious.
“Prostate cancer and its treatment are the leading cause of disability in cancer survivors,” says Professor David Dearnaley, from The Institute of Cancer Research, London and consultant at the Royal Marsden. “These side effects can include incontinence – both bladder and bowel – and sexual problems like impotence.”
At the moment, for men given radiotherapy, the gold standard is treatment five days a week, over a period of just over seven weeks. But over the years, evidence has emerged that fewer, stronger doses of radiation could be just as effective in treating the disease. If true, this would mean fewer trips to the hospital for men, potentially fewer side effects, as well as savings for the NHS.
So more than a decade ago, with funding from Cancer Research UK, Dearnaley’s team set out to test this approach in what turned out to be the largest clinical trial of its type in history – the CHHiP trial.
The results, published in full today, should change clinical practice. But there’s a catch: to allow all men who need it to benefit, the NHS needs to invest substantially in new radiotherapy machines – something we’re pressing the Government to do.
In 2002 CHHiP began recruiting men with localised prostate cancer, aiming to test how the size and number of radiotherapy doses might affect survival and side effects.
As expected, the standard radiotherapy course was very effective at controlling prostate cancer: after five years almost nine in 10 men (88%) were still free from any signs of their cancer growing.
And if radiotherapy was given in fewer, stronger doses, the 60 Gray overall dose (group two) was just as effective at keeping prostate cancer at bay. And the lower dose of 57 Gray (group three) was only marginally less effective, with 86% of patients seeing their disease under control after 5 years.
But what about side effects? As a result of using IMRT, very few men experienced serious bowel or bladder problems – and this was the same in both groups one and two. This was important, as it showed that stronger daily doses didn’t cause an increase in serious side effects. Similarly, sexual problems, while much more common, occurred at much the same rate in both groups.
But men in the third group, who got the lowest overall dose of radiotherapy (who fared slightly worse in terms of disease control), were slightly less likely to have side effects from their treatment. And, as Dearnaley points out, this means a new option for certain men.
“While the lowest dose wasn’t quite as effective at controlling prostate cancer, the reduced side effects might make it a better option, particularly more elderly or frail men,” Dearnaley tells us.
Giving a bigger dose of radiotherapy with each session requires state of the art radiotherapy machines and precise planning– Professor Malcolm Mason
“This was an important trial to carry out,” says Dearnaley, “because reducing the number of treatments men need to get the best outcome is a positive step.”
“For patients, it means fewer visits to hospital. Their treatment is more convenient and finished sooner, allowing them to go back to their normal lives.”
It also has big advantages for the NHS too. Fewer treatments would cost less – 10s of millions of pounds in savings – and free up radiotherapy resources, potentially reducing waiting times and allowing more time for research.
But using these higher doses of radiotherapy also has implications for how hospitals plan treatment, according to Professor Malcolm Mason, Cancer Research UK’s prostate cancer expert.
“Giving a bigger dose of radiotherapy with each session requires state of the art radiotherapy machines and precise planning,” he says.
“And ensuring treatment is accurate, using the most modern techniques, is paramount.”
So while these findings point to great news for patients, there is still more work to be done to ensure that all hospitals can safely offer this approach to their patients.
The short answer is ‘yes’. In fact, most of the hospitals taking part in the study have already changed to the shorter schedule.
It’s crystal clear from this, the largest trial ever for localised prostate cancer, that men should be treated with fewer, stronger doses
– Professor David Dearnaley
And following the publication of these results, the NHS is looking to change the standard of care for all men. NHS England is in the process making this official, which we understand will happen over summer.
And the health services in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should be doing the same.
“It’s crystal clear from this, the largest trial ever for localised prostate cancer, that men should be treated with fewer, stronger doses,” Dearnaley explains.
“There’s no arguing with the results. And crucially, this was the first study to set limits on the amount of radiation to healthy tissue like the bladder and bowel.”
This is important, he says, because it sets the standard for how men across the country should be treated.
It’s now up to the government and the health service to ensure this can happen. And that’s something we’ll be pressing governments and health authorities to do.
“It’s vital that, once proven in clinical trials, patients across the UK get swift access to the latest innovative radiotherapy treatments,” says Emlyn Samuel, Cancer Research UK’s senior policy manager.
“Last year’s cancer strategy for England called for national funding to urgently update and replace outdated radiotherapy equipment, but we are yet to see any commitment from NHS England or the Government on this,”
“They need to rectify this, so that patients can have the best, evidence-based treatments they need.”
The men on the CHHiP trial are still only five years post-treatment, so Dearnaley and the rest of the team will need to keep monitoring the men for another five to 10 years, to find out if the new radiotherapy dosing has any effect on long term survival.
“Another interesting side story from the trial is we’ve been keeping samples of the tumours,” says Dearnaley. “We’ll be looking at the molecular and genetic characteristics of the tumours to find out if there are ways to predict the best course of radiotherapy for each patient.”
And it’s not the end of the story for research into hypofractionation. As radiotherapy becomes ever more precise, doctors will be able to limit damage to nearby organs more, allowing each treatment to deliver a higher dose. “We could one day see men needing just five or six rounds of radiotherapy,” he says.
And Dearnaley predicts that an important next step will be the development of a new technique called Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)-guided radiotherapy.
“This will be so precise, it will allow us to focus treatment on specific areas within the prostate itself. I think in around five years we’ll be well on the way to using this technology.”
It might seem like a small step, and not as headline-grabbing as a new drug, but this trial will improve the lives of a thousands of patients and lead to financial savings for the NHS.
We’re proud to be supporting the vital clinical trials that are setting the standard of care for cancer patients in the UK.
In your statement above you say doctors have 3 options for prostrate cancer radiotherapy, cutting it out or monitor this is not strictly true ….as I have prostrate cancer and had treatment last year called brachytherapy it’s the best thing I’ve ever had its minute radioactive implants directly into the prostrate cancer area so would you call this the 4th option ?? guys just ask your doctor….Rob
Just finished Radiotherapy and glad that it was only 4 weeks of treatment I cannot say that your comments regarding side effects are particularly true in my case but still struggling 2 weeks later.
Are all men undergoing this higher frequency treatment automatically enrolled into your survey
Should low dose brachytherapy treatment not get mentioned as one of the current options? I had this at the Christie in Manchester 2 years ago. Very effective with minor side effects.
I am now a volunteer with the cruk north west health awareness roadshow.
You might not notice it just yet, but the UK has become the latest country to introduce plain, standardised packaging of cigarettes, along with Australia and France.
The switch follows a landmark ‘yes’ vote in the House of Commons just over a year ago that saw MPs from all parties take a stand against tobacco marketing.
And following a final failed legal challenge, tobacco companies are no longer allowed to manufacture glitzy packs that evidence shows act as a ‘silent salesman’ to children. Here’s how packs will change:
This will be vital in helping protect children from being attracted to start smoking – and the evidence proves it.
It’s also hugely popular. Nearly three quarters of the public supported standard packs before they were made law:
So, after a journey spanning four years, we’re delighted they’re finally here. But what are standard packs? And what else is changing in tobacco marketing?
You might expect ‘plain’ packs to be white – but they won’t be. Instead, they’ll be a drab brown colour, with a matte finish.
This is thanks to research from Australia, which found that dark brown colours were the most effective in lowering cigarettes’ appeal, and led people to use words like ‘dirty’, ‘tar’ or ‘death’ when describing them.
But it’s not just the colour that’s changing. Until now, cigarette packs could be sold in different shapes and sizes, with different ways of opening that could mimic boxes of matches or lighters. And gone are the days of the thin ‘lipstick’ or ‘perfume’ packs (although slim cigarettes are still available to buy).
Pack design is important. Research shows these designs both attract young people to cigarettes, and mislead them about their damaging effects. Opening a pack sideways, for example, means the size of the health warning on the front becomes relatively smaller.
And cunning design is no accident. The tobacco industry has long been working out how to modify the shape, size and opening of packs to influence whether people view cigarettes as risky or appealing.
For the time being, tobacco companies will be allowed to sell cigarette they’ve already made and packaged, but any made after today will have to conform to the new rules. And by May 2017, all packs on the shelves will have to meet these standards too.
So while standard packs won’t appear overnight, they’ll gradually appear on the shelves over the coming months.
And this can’t come soon enough as Rosa, one of our Cancer Campaigns Ambassadors – who led the charge to show MPs why standard packs were vital – explains:
Knowing that I had helped future generations of children and young people have one less reason to start smoking makes me feel grateful. I am thankful that my children and grandchildren are not exposed to the same marketing tactics that resulted in me developing a tobacco addiction and then cancer
Our Ambassadors are also helping to celebrate through a Twitter thunderclap, which you can join here.
But the drab overhaul of packs is just one of a number of changes being introduced. A new EU law – called the Tobacco Products Directive – will also see a number of other measures introduced from today. These include:
It took 20 more years before, in 1991, the EU brought in the first legally required warning labels, and made them larger in 2003 to cover a third of the pack. And it wasn’t until 2008 that graphic pictures on packs were required.
Now those health warnings will be boosted to cover up to 65% of both the front and back of a pack.
Standard packs could also be important here too, as research with schoolchildren found the drab alternatives increased visual attention to health warnings and away from branding.
Cigarette packs will also no longer have warnings on the amount of tar and nicotine they contain.
While that might seem odd, the logic is very clear: whether or not a cigarette is ‘normal’ or ‘low-tar’, smokers still ingest the same levels of tar and nicotine when they smoke.
This is because ‘low tar’ cigarettes have perforations on the filter, which can lead to a lower tar yield score when tested by a machine.
But in reality, smokers cover these perforations with their fingers, lips, or saliva, meaning that the damage caused by a ‘low tar’ cigarette is no different from a regular one.
The new EU law will also see a ban on menthol and flavoured cigarettes introduced by 2020, and flavour capsules in cigarette filters will be banned this year. This is a great move to limit a growing and uniquely harmful area of the tobacco industry’s product range.
Menthol can reduce the harshness of tobacco smoke, potentially making cigarettes more appealing for young people – a fact the tobacco industry already knows.
There are also changes ahead for manufacturers of e-cigarettes. As well as changes affecting the size of tanks and strength of nicotine-containing liquids, e-cigarette manufacturers will have to decide whether to apply for them to be regulated as either a consumer product or a medicinal one, with different marketing restrictions on each.
If companies choose to make a claim that their e-cigarette helps smokers quit, they will have to apply for a medicines’ licence – but this will exempt them from certain regulations on strength and marketing.
These changes may spark considerable debate, and it’s essential that we monitor how they affect e-cigarette use. To make sure policy decisions around e-cigarettes continue to be evidence-based, and allow the devices to reach their potential to help smokers quit, we need more research.
That’s why as well as providing information, we’ve set up an e-cigarette research forum with Public Health England, and we’re part-funding a study across the UK to understand what these changes to e-cigarette marketing will mean. You can find more about its aims here.
These changes have been a long time coming and, overall, we think they’ll ultimately have a positive impact on smoking rates. But while standard packs and a number of the new EU measures are great news, not everyone was so keen to protect the health of our children.
In spite of restrictions on how they influence public health policy, the tobacco industry fought tooth and nail to prevent them being introduced.
Throughout the debate on standard packs, it provided an onslaught of misinformation. When the Government consulted on standard packs, the industry submitted evidence of poor quality, talked up concerns about smuggling and ‘brand-switching’, and suggested there’s no evidence standard packs will work, all of which run contrary to the evidence base.
And research has shown the Tobacco Products Directive was one of the most lobbied pieces of legislation in EU history.
After it didn’t get its way, the tobacco industry packed the legislation in their barristers’ briefcases, and marched it to court.
Although it’s tried to overturn standard packs and the Tobacco Products Directive through spurious legal challenges – wasting UK taxpayers’ money in the process – we’re happy to report it has been defeated.
We believe it’s utterly shameful that the tobacco industry has spent so much time, effort and money trying to block measures that will help prevent cancers in the future. It makes this quote from a World Health Organisation (WHO) Committee of Experts particularly poignant:
Tobacco use is unlike other threats to public health. Infectious diseases do not employ multinational public relations firms. There are no front groups to promote the spread of cholera. Mosquitos have no lobbyists
These changes – particularly to tobacco packaging – are historic in the UK, and their impact cannot be overstated. Finally, we’ll see cigarettes for what they really are – a vehicle for an early grave that is entirely avoidable.
So out goes the glitzy, gift-wrapped cigarette pack, and in comes a gift to protect future generations from cancer.
And today we can celebrate that.
Dan Hunt is a policy advisor at Cancer Research UK
I understand the need for a standardised packet, however removing the “choice” of Menthol seems ridiculous! Surely if the packet is not advertised, then further the child cannot see the packet for sale in a shop, why ban Menthol? Absurd! Why is there not a ban on ALL fizzy, sugary drinks that also have no benefit? Where do these ban’s stop, is it not my choice to smoke or Drink Alcohol? Why was Horse riding not banned when listed by top Scientists as more deadly than some illegal drugs? Because “we” as humans should have the right to free will, however our government is making changes that affect my free will and right as a human being
Changes to packet quantity and removing packets of 10 a waste of time, if people are trying to cut down to quit smoking making them buy packets that contain 20 only may just defeat the point. Keeping smaller quantity pack sizes I think will help
I had never thought about this aspect of tobacco marketing before, but I did know that all manufacturers of consumer goods spend large sums on packaging appearance. If it was not so important why did the tobacco industry fight to try to prevent it? They have known for decades about the harm smoking does and have ruined the lives of U.S. scientists to silence them on the subject As a life long non-smoker, often surrounded by this revolting habit, I welcome any new legislation that helps to bring about the downfall of the tobacco giants. Keep up the Good Work !
Thanks for your comment.
It was the UK Government, not Cancer Research UK, that was forced to spend money fighting the legal case. This was because the tobacco industry took them to court over the new regulations. Tobacco use in England alone costs society approximately £13.8 billion each year, both in direct costs to the NHS, and other costs such as lost work days and productivity due to smoking related illness. This is more than the Government receives in tobacco taxes – that’s why we’re calling for a levy on their profits to pay for vital Stop Smoking Services that are under threat from government cuts. You can find out more about this here. If we help more people stop smoking, as well as saving lives, it will reduce the burden on the NHS.
Nick, Cancer Research UK
Why was public money used for legal challenge? Where does cancer research get the extra money from if it is not being used for cancer treatment. Also how much tax does the government take from tobacco companies in relation to the amount that is used for research and hospitals. If a larger percentage of this tax taken from companies/ customers went to hospitals more cancer could be treated/ cured.
I’m proud to say that I was part of the legal team that represented the Government in the High Court challenge brought by the tobacco companies against the plain packaging legislation. It was a huge team effort by a large number of people, but it has paid off. It was a particularly sweet and poignant victory for me personally, as I am also a cancer survivor and had only been back at work for 2 years when I took on this case.
I gave up smoking a long time ago, but when I did smoke, no amount of nasty pictures or plain packaging would have stopped me. Also, the “Glitzy” packaging or “cool image” advertising did not, and would not influence me to smoke in the first place. I hope the new campaign works and smoking is eventually banished forever, but until then the government should take the tax off of things like fuel and foods, and put up the tax on non essentials like cigarettes and alcohol.
Thanks for your comment.
The new regulations also cover rolling tobacco, so pouches produced from today will also have to be standardised.
We hope you’ll be pleased to hear that youth smoking rates are actually declining. But as you point out, it’s vital that measures such as standardised packaging are brought into force so that these rates continue to fall.
Nick, Cancer Research UK
Whilst I appreciate and applaud the decision to make packs uncool this alone is not enough.We as nation need to make more effort to dissuade others from smoking. It is said by some that reformed smokers are the most vocal regarding stopping others. If this is the case the non smokers that are reformed are the strongest source of campaign available. We will not prevent Cancer by stopping smoking but every one that we do is a bonus.
I think that this is brilliant news ! However, what is going to happen to loose tobacco in pouches – our office is near a 6th Form College and what seems like 70% of 16-18 yr olds make rollups and smoke like mad ! it’s shocking really shocking – is there an age limit on buying tobacco ? can you please let me know what it is – these young people are so short sighted and stupid it is dreadful to see them in such addiction as surely it is the way you see them so dependant on making and smoking these rollups.
I support 2 cancer charities with monthly direct debits and regularly give generously on other occasions. But I am a smoker. And I’m sick of being treated like scum and an outcast. I don’t believe I should be allowed to smoke in public places like restaurants but I do believe I should have my right to smoke in peace and while others have their right to overeat and get drunk in public.
Having smoked for 30 years (back in the day it was “cool” to smoke with glitzy adverts in mags and cinema) and now developed COPD, anything to deter children from taking up this filthy habit is great – just ban all tobacco products and see the nations health improve over time.
No matter how drab the packaging may be, if people want to smoke they will , we know smoking kills but no amount of anti smoking campaigning will make any difference whatsoever and will help the smugglers and counterfeiters to line their deep pockets.
Plain Packaging is a total and utter waste of time – if the govt wanted people to stop smoking it would make it illegal to smoke – however, they earn too many tax ££ from them so the hypocrites put the owness on the smokers to stop themselves while the govt pockets the tax – disgusting. Who cares what a cigarette pack looks like?
Radiotherapy can sometimes be overlooked, not getting the recognition, and importantly the investment, it deserves. So we’ve made a big effort over many years to raise its profile and push government for improvements so that more patients can benefit.
And this is something that patients care about too.
“People have some funny ideas about radiotherapy, and see it as something sinister or scary,” says Elizabeth, one of our Cancer Campaigns Ambassadors.
“My treatment was actually a complete breeze – certainly after chemo. People need radiotherapy so they can spend more quality time with their friends and families, and we must all campaign to make sure people get it when they need it most.
Radiotherapy machines should be replaced every 10 years. But they’re expensive, costing up to £2m each for the latest versions. And while radiotherapy is very cost effective in the long term, over recent years hospitals have struggled to replace old machines due to the high cost up front.
This lack of investment in new machines is a major reason why some patients are not getting treatments that are best for them, as the NHS has not kept pace with advances that new technology brings.
For example, around half of patients receiving radiotherapy that has the potential to cure them should have a modern type called Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT). But right now, the proportion who do receive this treatment is under 40 per cent.
IMRT is the best form of radiotherapy for some types of cancer, such as head and neck cancer. That’s because it targets tumours more precisely, helping patients avoid side-effects such as dry mouth or trouble swallowing.
Replacing the machines will mean that more patients can benefit from these treatments. And the new machines will also help support research to improve and advance radiotherapy treatments even further.
At the moment there isn’t much detail about how this money will be handed out. So we’ll be keeping a close eye on how this happens.
Radiotherapy is sometimes mistakenly thought of as old fashioned but new techniques have made it an even more important part of cancer treatment
– Sir Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK
But one thing is for sure, this is great news for patients.
Our chief executive, Sir Harpal Kumar, said the money “will change the face of cancer treatment across England.”
“Modern radiotherapy plays a vital part in curing cancer for thousands of patients and the technological advances in recent years has been immense,” he adds.
“Radiotherapy is sometimes mistakenly thought of as old fashioned but new techniques have made it an even more important part of cancer treatment.
“This has been at the top of Cancer Research UK’s wish list for many years as well as being a key priority in the cancer strategy.”
And today’s investment in state-of-the-art radiotherapy machines will be a big boost to improving cancer survival for thousands in England.
Emlyn Samuel is a senior policy manager at Cancer Research UK
Update 03/04/17: NHS England has released more information about which hospitals in England will receive new radiotherapy machines, and has set out a timeline for when the machines will be up and running.
Do you have any information as to how this money will be allocated around the country? Competitive tendering? Need? In Sussex all of the Linear Accelerators are more than 12 years old and for two weeks of the last three two of them have been broken but no word (yet) from NHS England about this money. Do you have any clues?
Spending more on Radiotherapy equipment is one way of going about it. I’ll state what is written at the top of the page
‘It was around 4 years ago that we first raised the issue that England’s radiotherapy machines were becoming out of date and needed to be replaced.’
So we are now takeling and spending millions on furthering technology. Fair enough that’s what we do we adapt we evolve.
We know many reasons why we could get cancer depending on the individual’s mind strength and immune system. Some people smoke all their lives and don’t get it, some people smoke all their lives and get cancer which isn’t related to smoking, and others do!
Almost everything we eat, buy from shops, frozen food, cooking in microwave, not drinking enough real water. (not tap water which has been through other people’s body’s and passed out which we use chemicals to “apparently” clean) we then use other chemicals to balance it out. The water from taps is dead water it has no presence in your body, it comes straight out.
We need to go back to the days when cancer wasn’t 1 in 2 people (2016), and think why had it changed so much. It was only a few years ago when it was 1 in 3!
As far as I know you can’t catch cancer from someone else?! Life with money and power in this world makes it difficult for the general person to buy good food for the entire family. People are becoming lazy (struggling!) to find time to either grow their own organic foods or they don’t make enough money working 40 hours a week to buy organic healthy food. It’s just like drinking tap water with loads of chemicals rather than natural water which is filtered naturally through stone and rocks and absorb minerals which our bodies actually need and use. Organic foods with some genuine advice of what benefits you get from it, or what doesn’t nourish your body as the general public think, (have been told or not been told).
I was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2013 which had been slow growing for how many years doctors don’t know, (doctors don’t know everything, they go by what they are taught in their education). Especially in the UK we are limited experiments then answers that they can only explain!!
A TRUE SCIENTIST KNOWS THAT HE/SHE DOESN’T KNOW MUCH AT ALL. THERE IS SO MUCH MORE WE NEED TO LEARN TO UNDERSTAND THE WORLD WE LIVE IN
There had been cases of cancers disappearing from people’s bodies by becoming more 1 with nature. Eat natural foods, drink natural water not another person’s piss cleaned up by man made chemicals, EXERCISE! You only need to do 20 minutes of getting your heart racing, and breathe into and out of your stomach not your chest (Basic YOGA will do wonders!)
There are many things that our current world we live in should change, but they just keep upgrading computers and systems..
What does this lead to for the companies that provide the treatment – – MONEY which means power nowadays!
LOOK AFTER YOURSELVES BETTER. THINK AND READ WHAT YOU ARE PUTTING INTO YOUR MOUTH. AS THAT ESSENTIALLY IS WHAT YOUR MADE OF
!!!!! SMARTEN UP PEOPLE. !!!!!
All these facts and information is in front of you.
Don’t believe the first thing you read on the Internet!
Lots of love and best wishes from me
Kunal Bharat Patel
[The Website I Have Provided Below Is Just One Of Many, But It will not Be near The Top Of Any Search You do. Research Properly! ]
Great news, but as you rightly point out the latest equipment needs to be made available throughout the country and not only in major cities. Here in Wales Cardiff may well have been provided with IMRT but in Powys, the largest county in Wales and one of the largest in the U.K. we don’t even have a single General Hospital, the attitude of the Assembly Government apparently being that there are more sheep than people in Powys so there’s no need. It’s certainly not the best place to be suffering from cancer; my late wife was forced to make frequent day-long trips trips to Manchester for treatment.
Thanks for your question.
The investment will pay for new machines can deliver more precise types of radiotherapy, such as IMRT. It doesn’t include investment in proton beam therapy facilities, but the government has already committed to building two state-of-the-art high-energy proton beam facilities in the UK by 2018 – one at the Christie Hospital in Manchester, the other at UCL Hospital in London – at a total cost of £250 million. You can read more about the proton beam therapy centres here.
Nick, Cancer Research UK
Having survived Cancer 3 times in 23 years this is wonderful news but the Government need to make it to everyone who needs it no matter where you live. Good luck to all Cancer patients You will survive with time and patience.
We cover the latest cancer research, including that funded by the charity. We also highlight other relevant material, debunk myths and media scares, and provide links to other helpful resources.
A new one-off bowel test could reduce deaths by 40 per cent (click to enlarge)
What if having your bowel investigated with a tiny camera – just once – could greatly reduce the risk of dying from bowel cancerand of developing the disease in the first place? Striking new results from an important study show that this is very real possibility.
We don’t often use the word breakthrough – but this is one of those rare occasions. Thousands of people could be saved from developing bowel cancer because of this test and thousands more could be diagnosed early when treatment is most effective.
As Harpal Kumar, our Chief Executive Officer, said, “This is one of the most important developments in cancer research for years.”
For the past 16 years, Professor Wendy Atkin from Imperial College London has been coordinating a trial of a test called flexible sigmoidoscopy or, more commonly, ‘Flexi-Scope’. It involves a tube called an endoscope, which has a tiny camera and light at the end of it.
Cancer Research UK is proud to have supported much of Professor Atkin’s work, including part-funding this trial.
Doctors can use a Flexi-Scope to look for cancers in the bowel – or for early signs of the disease’s development. As with many cancers, early detection is vital for bowel cancer, and over 9 in 10 people will survive their disease for more than five years if it is diagnosed at the earliest stage.
But there’s a lot of potential for preventing the disease too. Most bowel cancers develop from symptomless growths called ‘polyps’ or ‘adenomas’. If doctors can find these, they can remove them before they have a chance to develop into cancer. This is a painless procedure and is usually quick, adding on a matter of minutes to the time needed to do the test itself.
For these reasons, Flexi-Scope could be a great way of screening people for bowel problems, and detecting or preventing cancer. But, as with any screening programme, we needed some hard evidence that it would actually save lives. Professor Atkin’s new results, published in the Lancet, show just that, and they are very promising.
What did the trial show?
Professor Atkin’s team recruited over 170,000 people to the trial, a third of whom were invited for one-off screening using Flexi-Scope. Just over 70 per cent of those invited chose to attend and, all in all, the teams screened 40,674 people.
She found that for people aged between 55 and 64, a one-off Flexi-Scope examination reduced people’s chances of developing bowel cancer by a third, compared to a control group who weren’t screened. It also reduced the death rate from bowel cancer by 43 per cent.
All in all, Prof Atkin showed that for every 1,000 people who are screened, 5.2 cases of bowel cancer can be prevented and two deaths could be avoided. Put another way, you would need to screen 191 people to prevent one case of bowel cancer and 489 people to prevent one death. And these figures can only get better with time.
But the figures are only half the story. We also need to consider the size of the prize. Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK and more than 100 people are diagnosed every day. Death rates have been falling in the past four decades, but the disease still kills around 16,000 people every year.
The prospect of preventing such a common disease that costs so many lives is extremely exciting. Doing so with a one-off five-minute test, whose benefits last for at least 11 years, is even better.
Based on the data, Prof Atkin conservatively estimates that the one-off screen could prevent at least 5,000 people from being diagnosed with bowel cancer and at least 3,000 people from dying from the disease.
To put that into perspective, official figures from the NHS Breast Screening Programme say that breast screening saves 1,400 lives a year in England. That figure is controversial but even so, adding Flexi-Scope to the existing national bowel screening programme could save twice as many lives.
A different screening programme?
The UK already has a bowel screening programme. It uses a different test called the “faecal occult blood test” or FOBT, which looks for hidden traces of blood in stools. In England and Wales, people are invited for screening between the ages of 60 and 69. They are sent a kit to use in the privacy of their own homes, and results are sent to a lab for testing.
The FOBT is also an effective way of screening for bowel cancer. Trials have found that it can reduce death rates from the disease by around 25 per cent, and countries all over the world have used it as the basis of bowel cancer screening programmes. However, Prof Atkin’s latest results suggest that the Flexi-Scope is even more effective. And, crucially, it can prevent bowel cancer as well as detecting it after it has appeared.
The two tests should complement each other well. The Flexi-Scope can only scan the lower part of the bowel. It won’t be able to detect polyps or cancers in the upper reaches, so the FOBT still has a role in detecting early cancers there.
The Flexi-Scope test is currentlyavailable in the UK, but only for people with symptoms or after a referral from a GP or specialist. Based on the new results, this could change in the future.
In fact, Cancer Research UK thinks the findings are so promising that we are calling on the UK governments to incorporate the Flexi-Scope as part of the national screening programme for bowel cancer alongside the FOBT test.
We think the Flexi-Scope test should probably be offered to people from their late 50s. This is because most polyps appear in the lower bowel before the age of 60 and slowly develop into cancer over the next few decades.
Will it be acceptable?
A key question is whether people will accept the new test. The signs suggest they will. In an earlier study of 4,400 people who went through Flexi-Scope screening, Prof Atkin showed that virtually all of them were glad they had the test and were satisfied with the procedure. Meanwhile, 91 per cent reported mild or no pain, and 97 per cent said they felt little or no embarrassment.
The risks of the test appear to be small. Removing a polyp can cause a small amount of bleeding and there is around a 1 in 50,000 chance that the tube can tear the bowel. There isn’t really a risk of a false-positive, because doctors can only detect and remove polyps if they are there.
And to top off the good news, the Flexi-Scope test could be very cost-effective, especially since it only needs to be done once in an 11 year span. The test’s costs would probably be outweighed by the fact that fewer people need to be treated, and treatments are cheaper for early-stage cancers. In 2006, a study commissioned by the UK Department of Health suggested that a Flexi-Scope screening programme would actually save £28 for every person who was screened.
Of course, Prof Atkin says that there are many practical choices that would affect these calculations, and they would need to be repeated using data from the actual trials. There’s also the pressing need to train people with the endoscopes if Flexi-Scope becomes more widely used.
The new results have closed the door on 16 years of research and opened new and exciting ones. The big question now is whether the country will step through them.
More from Cancer Research UK:
Atkin W et al (2010). Once-only flexible sigmoidoscopy screening in prevention of colorectal cancer: a multicentre randomised controlled trial The Lancet : 10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60551-X
My mum died of bowel cancer at age of 46, 17yrs ago now and although I am 40 myself later this year I am terrified of getting this cancer myself. Mum’s was undiagnosed and only detected when undergoing private health care. By time they operated, thinking it was ovarian cancer, it was too late. She died 3 weeks later. Maybe if the doctors at our local surgery had discovered it sooner, over 5month period, she would still be here today. At 35 I went to my doctors asking to be screened, as I was told you could be if it was a parent who had died. On completing various NHS forms and although there is a history of it in both sides of my family, and due to limited info known by myself as other family members have since died, I was declined stating I wasn’t considered to be at risk. It doesnt stop me worrying and anything that is available to help screen people of a younger age in the same position as me,I would welcome. Mum’s my proof that you dont have to be over 50 years of age to become a victim of this awfully cruel disease. But 17yrs on I am so greatful to the advances in medicine for Bowel cancer from cancer research and it’s re-assurring so many more people are now surviving it. I wish everyone well who has ever fought it or whoever is battling it now.
Also, do your research before agreeing to mammograms.
The Nordic Cochrane Institute were so concerned at the lack of real information getting to women that they produced, “The risks and benefits of mammograms” – it’s at their website. A rare and unbiased summary.
Sadly, we get a one-sided promotion of cancer screening tests with no risk information. Although men were fortunate enough to get risk information quickly for prostate cancer screening and doctors were reminded to get informed consent.
That has never happened in women’s cancer screening – we basically get an order to screen with no real information on the risks and actual benefits.
The other way to save money – we over-screen women for rare cervical cancer. Finland has the lowest rates of cervical cancer in the world and just as importantly sends the fewest women for colposcopy/biopsies (fewer false positives) – they offer 5 to 7 tests over your lifetime – 5 yearly from 30. (The Netherlands use the same program)
We over-screen and that greatly increases the risk of a false positive and unnecessary biopsies and treatments – all potentially harmful.
Also, we shouldn’t be screening women under 25, the evidence from the UK is clear, it doesn’t affect the tiny death rate, but causes harm through very high false positive and over-treatment rates.
We crow about having the lowest mortality rate from cervical cancer, but healthy women pay a huge price for that “success” – massive and harmful over-detection and over-treatment with our over-screening policy.
Sadly, cervical screening is very political and emotion drive, light on facts and common sense.
We could save millions and harm fewer women if we adopted the Finnish program. (they send 35%-55% of women for colposcopy/biopsies while we send 77%-78% over their lifetime – almost all are false positives)
It’s the best you’ll do with this unreliable test.
Cervical cancer only affects 1%-1.58% of women in an UN-screened, developed country.
When 99.35% don’t benefit from smears (0.35% false negatives) – that leaves 0.65% who benefit, you wonder whether this is the best use of taxpayer dollars?
We spend $133 million for the cervical screening program every year PLUS the medicare payments for unnecessary colposcopies/biopsies and caring for the women harmed by these procedures.
Women can have health issues after cone biopsies and LEEP (most are unnecessary and caused by false positives)- infertility, high risk pregnancy, more c-sections, miscarriages, premature babies and psych issues.
We could make a huge saving by diverting this money or some of this money to bowel cancer screening.
The Cancer Council of Victoria say that 600 women have been saved over 16/18 years – that’s a very small number when you factor in the massive cost and the negative impact of over-detection and over-treatment of healthy women.
I think the cervical screening campaign is a hugely expensive atomic bomb being used to kill an ant and harms large numbers along the way.
It’s a highly political program and doctors and others make a fortune from it, thus it rarely gets close analysis and any criticism is quickly silenced. Our doctors also get paid financial incentives when they reach targets for pap tests – more money! (Financial Incentives Legislation and PIP scheme) Our doctors are paid to reach targets to screen for the rarest (by miles) of the cancers we currently screen for…
We waste huge sums of money on this screening, it makes no sense when large numbers could be saved elsewhere.
I vote for more bowel screening, let’s drop the political hype and get on with saving more lives.
(My references: Articles and research by Richard DeMay, Angela Raffle, Laura Koutsky & Others at Dr Joel Sherman’s Medical Privacy forum under Womens Privacy Issues.)
I have some bowel symptoms like bloating and constipation. I want to diagnose myself but I feel shame for any test like endoscopy or Flexi-Scope, being inserted into the rectum. Is it any alternative method to diagnose polyps.
Will anything be done to help those people who become very nervous and stressed about uncomfortable invasive procedures such as this? In the past 10 years I’ve had a gastroscopy, without sedation, during which I could hardly breathe because of constant gagging. Very unpleasant and traumatic. Also I had an angiogram, during the latter stages of which I became distressed and nearly fainted on the operating table. It’s all very well to say that the colonoscopy is worth a “bit of discomfort” for the benefits, but for a significant number of people (like the 30% who declined the screening trail) it can present a huge psychological barrier. What will be done to help people like these?
I live in France where the FOBT was introduced 5 years ago. My wife and I participated in it and I was found to need an endoscopy. This revealed polyps which could easily have become cancerous and required an operation. 2 years later I had another endoscopy and some small polyps were removed. I am due for another in 6 months time. I strongly urge everyone in the at risk age groups to take these tests. Endoscopy is mildly uncomfortable but without it there is a very good chance that I would not be here today. I am very pleased to here that is now available in the UK.
We cover the latest cancer research, including that funded by the charity. We also highlight other relevant material, debunk myths and media scares, and provide links to other helpful resources.
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, with around 41,000 people diagnosed each year. And rates are rising.
More than half of UK bowel cancers could be prevented by things such as keeping to a healthy weight and cutting down on alcohol. But research, particularly into screening, is also helping find ways to prevent the disease, or spot cases earlier.
In the UK, men and women are sent a bowel screening kit they complete at home, called a faecal occult blood test (or FOBt). The test looks for minute traces of blood in poo, which can help spot bowel cancer at an early stage, when a person feels healthy and has no symptoms.
These kits save lives, and those choosing to take part reduce their risk of dying from bowel cancer by a quarter.
But a new study – part-funded by Cancer Research UK and published today in The Lancet – looks at the impact of another part of bowel screening called bowel scope.
As we’ve written about before the benefits of this test aren’t limited to finding bowel cancers at an early stage, when treatment is more likely to be successful. That’s because as well as being able to detect cancers at an early stage, the test can also prevent bowel cancer developing in the first place.
Results from a 2010 study showed that the risk of developing bowel cancer was reduced by a third, and the risk of dying from the disease by more than 40% in people who took up the offer of bowel scope screening.
And we can now say for the first time, based on today’s latest follow-up data, that these benefits last for at least 17 years.
This is all the more incredible when you consider that it’s a one-off test.
Bowel scope uses a thin, flexible tube with a small camera and light at the end of it to look inside the lower part of the bowel (the rectum and sigmoid colon). This means the bowel scope can find early stage cancers that aren’t yet causing any symptoms. And spotting bowel cancer at an early stage can make a big difference to surviving the disease.
As well as being able to detect bowel cancers at an early stage, bowel scope can also prevent the disease by finding polyps, small growths which if left untreated sometimes develop into bowel cancer.
The UK flexible sigmoidoscopy screening trial (UKFSST), which produced today’s new results, included people aged around 60 who had a one-off bowel scope screening test, and followed them up to see whether people receiving screening had different outcomes from those who didn’t have the test.
Bowel scope is being rolled out as a one-off test at age 55, before people start to receive the at-home FOBt kits at age 60.
Today’s research follows up the same group of people from the trial, but the researchers are now able to look at what effect bowel scope has had 17 years down the line.
It’s extraordinary – it’s the first time that this long term effect, for 17 years, has been shown
– Professor Wendy Atkin
And the results are clear – the benefits of bowel scope have lasted.
As lead author Professor Wendy Atkin, based at Imperial College London, explains: “We see that the benefit of bowel scope screening has not diminished over time. It’s extraordinary – it’s the first time that this long term effect, for 17 years, has been shown.
Atkin says that based on the team’s 2010 results they knew “bowel scope was an incredibly effective screening tool”.
But 7 years on they believe the results are even more encouraging.
“People having bowel scope screening just once have a 35% lower risk of developing bowel cancer, and a 40% lower risk of dying from the disease,” she says.
To put this in context that translates to roughly 2 fewer cases of bowel cancer and 1 death prevented from the disease for every 220 people screened.
“And the impact becomes even larger when we consider just the lower portion of the bowel, which is the part of the bowel that bowel scope examines,” says Atkin. “We see 56% fewer cancers in the lower portion of the bowel, and the risk of dying from these cancers drops by two thirds (66%) in people being screened.”
This could be down to needing to take time off work for an appointment, for example. Or being worried about the test itself or thinking the test is not relevant for them. And, importantly, bowel scope is the new kid on the block when it comes to bowel screening, and the bowel screening programme itself has only been around for about 10 years.
The UKFSST began recruiting patients in 1994, but it wasn’t until 2010 that the team published results on bowel scope. And it was later that year that the Government committed to rolling it out. In 2013, the first invitations were sent out to eligible people in 6 small areas across England. But the roll-out process has been slow, so not everyone eligible to take part in bowel scope screening has had the opportunity to do so.
The Government has said that every screening centre in England should have started sending out invitations last year. But making a test like this available nationwide isn’t easy, and so it might not be on offer to all eligible people for a few more years.
A large part of the delay is that the NHS doesn’t have enough trained endoscopists to perform bowel scope screens, as well as all the endoscopies that are required for other reasons, such as those needed for people with symptoms which need further investigation. This growing demand for endoscopies is a point we’ve raised before.
Since 2015, a scheme has been underway to train 200 more endoscopists in England. Some of these new endoscopists might be hard at work already, but it’s important that there are enough newly trained specialists to meet the growing demand for these life-saving tests.
It’s also important to note that although bowel scope has been recommended by the National Screening Committee, the governments in other parts of the UK have not yet said that it will become part of their bowel screening programmes. We believe that every eligible person, regardless of where in the UK they live, should have access to the best possible bowel screening programme, including bowel scope as well as FIT – an even better test for at home screening.
Today’s research offers the clearest signal yet that bowel scope needs to be offered to all eligible people in the UK.
The Government in England has made its commitment. Now it’s up to the governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to make theirs.
And for bowel scope to reach everyone who is eligible, those governments, and the NHS, must make sure there are enough endoscopists to carry out the tests, and that services can cope with demand.
Fiona Osgun is a senior health information officer at Cancer Research UK
Atkin, W., et al. (2017). Long term effects of once-only flexible sigmoidoscopy screening after 17 years of follow-up: the UK Flexible Sigmoidoscopy Screening randomised controlled trial. The Lancet. DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(17)30396-3
Thanks for your question. Sorry to hear about your father. Bowel scope is being gradually rolled out across England, but it isn’t possible to request to be screened if you haven’t received an invitation. If you’re worried about your risk of bowel cancer we recommend you talk to your GP.
Fiona, Cancer Research UK
After months of speculation, the Government has launched its updated childhood obesity plan.
We were critical of the first attempt, which was launched 2 years ago. But Steve Brine, the Public Health Minister, has said that the first part was meant to be the “start of the conversation, not the final word”.
So, how’s the conversation going?
The updated plan includes a bold ambition to halve childhood obesity by 2030. Around 60 cancers a day are diagnosed in the UK due to excess weight in adulthood. And overweight children are 5 times more likely to be overweight as adults. So, cutting childhood obesity could have a big impact on cancer rates in the future.
The Government says it will do this in many ways, most importantly through tackling how junk food is marketed at children and families.
We congratulate the Government on putting forward this bold plan, demonstrating its commitment to address one of the most significant health challenges of our time. Once implemented following the consultation, the proposed restrictions on junk food advertising will make an enormous impact on childhood obesity rates
– Sir Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive
Proposed measures include a potential ban on junk food adverts before the 9pm watershed with similar protections online and a ban on promotions for foods high in fat, salt or sugar in stores.
These are issues we’ve been campaigning on for a long time across the UK, and their inclusion shows that Government has been listening.
There’s already a ban on junk food ads on TV programmes made specifically for children. But almost three-quarters of children’s viewing time doesn’t fall under those rules, including peak-time family entertainment shows such as Britain’s Got Talent.
The same is true of popular websites and social media platforms. The new plan shows that Government recognises this, and we think it’s vital that changes in children’s media habits are being accounted for.
It’s also encouraging that the strength of ‘pester power’ is being acknowledged through a commitment to remove buy one, get one free and other offers on junk food in supermarkets. Displays of sweets and other junk food at checkouts are also proposed to be banned, again protecting kids from eye-level marketing.
In 2016, we launched our campaign to tackle childhood obesity through a ban on junk food adverts on TV before the 9pm watershed.
Back then David Cameron was Prime Minister, and his team showed interest in reducing childhood obesity, so we were confident there would be a Government strategy shortly.
The plan wasn’t as bold as promised and many called it a missed opportunity to tackle the country’s biggest public health challenge after smoking.
Since then, we’ve been maintaining the pressure on the Government, with the support of almost 4000 members of the public.
Fast forward 2 years and the updated plan is much stronger.
The 9pm watershed isn’t a done deal. Government will gather opinions from the public, health bodies, food and drinks and advertising industries, and on what the ban should look like, before the end of the year. So now is our chance to tell the Government exactly what we would like to see.
We know there will be a big push back from industry, but the evidence is strong. Reducing the number of adverts and discounts children see for unhealthy foods will give parents and families greater control of their diets.
We need to maintain public and parliamentary pressure for the foreseeable future to make sure these measures don’t get watered down or forgotten.
So, while we welcome the intention to introduce a bold set of measures to address the obesity epidemic, it must be followed up with action.
Alex Kenney is a public affairs officer at Cancer Research UK
It’s a daunting task but like so many things you’ve got to try and eradicate the problem at source which I know is easier said than done. Unfortunately many politicians are weak and few would be really willing to take on the giants in the food and drink industry. Statements like halving childhood obesity by 50% by 2030 is almost criminal – it needs to be brought forward to 2020 and 75%. It’s time to act now, not tomorrow or next week it must be NOW.
Perhaps taking away the free bus travel – the kids travel one stop just to fill up on fried chicken lunchtime, and on way home too! Stopping the wholesale sale of school playing fields might be common sense options.
Mummy can I please buy this? Can I please buy this? Can I please buy this?”
As a child you probably tried this tactic, while if you’re a parent, you’ve probably been subjected to this exasperating form of pleading – often referred to as ‘pester power’.
And one of the biggest culprits for encouraging pester power is junk food advertising.
It’s already been shown that junk food ads affect how children ask their parents for food, with around three-quarters of parents saying that their children have pestered them to buy junk food.
This can lead to parents buying unhealthy foods that are associated with obesity, and makes it more difficult for them to feed their children a healthy diet.
This is particularly worrying at a time when 1 in 3 children leave primary school overweight or obese, many of whom will go on to become obese adults. And obesity in adults is the biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking, being linked to 10 different cancer types.
Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulatory body, has previously acknowledged the harm that these ads cause to children and introduced a ban on ads promoting junk food during children’s programming. But it isn’t enough.
Our study explored children’s perceptions of junk food advertising, and involved more than 100 nine to 12 year olds from primary schools across England and Scotland.
The children were shown various popular adverts for junk foods, and asked questions such as when they typically saw these adverts, how the ads made them feel, and whether they made them buy or ask for certain foods.
We found that children are mostly exposed to junk food advertising in the evenings and weekends after 4:30pm, during family programmes.
So despite the rules to protect children from junk food marketing, children are still far too easily exposed to these ads on TV.
We also found that children recall, enjoy and engage with junk food adverts.
In the discussions, food adverts were among children’s favourite type of ad. Many used the ads when socialising with friends – especially those that were funny or entertaining.
“We try and make the funny voices and do the advert,” said one boy in year four.
So while these ads are ever-present in children’s lives, they also have an impact on their behaviour and consequently their health.
In the short-term the adverts made some children hungry and want to eat junk food – as a student put it: “You might be eating a piece of fruit, you might see the advert and you might just throw it in the bin and ask your mum for money and leg it to the shop.”
In the longer-term, junk food adverts can encourage children to ask their parents to buy certain food either immediately after viewing the advert or when they’re out shopping and see the food in the store.
For example a girl in year six told the researchers: “Me and my family always go out shopping on Saturday so usually if I see them [sweets] I remember that advert and I buy them.”
And this impact on behaviour is the start of a slippery slope into health problems according to Chit Selvarajah, Cancer Research UK’s prevention policy manager.
“We can’t ignore the role of junk food advertising in childhood obesity,” he says.
“Kids exposed to junk food ads are more likely to eat junk food. They not only pester their parents to buy unhealthy snacks but use their own pocket money to buy junk food they’ve seen advertised.”
There are alarmingly high levels of childhood obesity, and children are being influenced to buy junk food, often without realising it. And this problem is too important toignore.
Today, our Cancer Campaigns Ambassadors are meeting their MPs, as part of a day of action in Parliament, to help make sure our voice is heard. They’ll be telling MPs about the link between obesity and cancer and how they can protect children from exposure to junk food ads.
But TV isn’t the only media where junk food is advertised.
TV viewing habits are shifting towards online, and the lack of advertising regulations online mean that children are being exposed to junk food adverts there too.
As one girl in year six pointed out: “I’m mainly on my iPad. And when I’m watching a YouTube video it comes up with adverts before [the video].”
So we’ll be looking how new proposals could help reduce children’s exposure online.
But right now making TV a junk free zone will be a welcome step towards a happy and healthier future generation.
Lindsay Allan is a graduate trainee in Cancer Research UK’s policy department
If you want to get involved ask your MP to write to the Public Health Minister in support of including pre-watershed junk food marketing restrictions in the childhood obesity strategy. Also tweet about our campaign using #JunkFreeTV.
We cover the latest cancer research, including that funded by the charity. We also highlight other relevant material, debunk myths and media scares, and provide links to other helpful resources.