Short and sweet: Why the government should introduce a sugary drinks tax

Sugar tax could prevent 3.7 million cases of obesity over next decade

A 20% tax on sugary drinks in the UK would prevent 3.7 million people becoming obese over the next decade, a report predicts. Cancer Research UK and the UK Health Forum worked out the likely impact of the tax on eating habits.  Their report said such a tax would also save the NHS £10m a year by 2025.

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Full report: Short and Sweet: Why the government should introduce a sugary drinks tax

BBC report: Sugary drinks tax ‘would stop millions becoming obese’

The impact of a new public health approach to end-of-life care: A systematic review

Sallnow, L. et al. Palliative Medicine. March 2016: vol. 30 no. 3200-211

N0030869 A carer comforting an elderly lady
Image source: Libby Welch

Background: Communities play an increasingly significant role in their own health and social care, and evidence demonstrates the positive impact of this work on a range of health outcomes. Interest is building regarding the application of the principles of the new public health approach to those facing the end of life and their families and communities.

Aim: To review the evidence relating to the impact of a new public health approach to end-of-life care, specifically as this applies to efforts to strengthen community action.

Design: A systematic review employing narrative synthesis. Both meta-ethnography and the use of descriptive statistics supported analysis.

Data sources: Eight databases (AMED, ASSIA, BiblioMap, CINAHL, Cochrane Reviews, EMBASE, MEDLINE and PsycINFO) were searched from the earliest record to March 2015 using set eligibility criteria.

Results: Eight articles were included in the analysis. Three main themes emerged from the meta-ethnography: making a practical difference, individual learning and personal growth and developing community capacity. The quantitative findings mapped to the meta-ethnography and demonstrated that engaging communities can lead to improved outcomes for carers such as decreased fatigue or isolation, increase in size of caring networks and that wider social networks can influence factors such as place of death and involvement of palliative care services.

Conclusion: Evidence exists for the impact of community engagement in end-of-life care. Impact assessment should be an integral part of future initiatives and policy makers should recognise that these approaches can influence complex issues such as carer support, community capacity, wellbeing and social isolation.

Read the abstract here

Radiotherapy for patients with prostate cancer

Advances in treatment options for the most common form of tumour among men in the UK

Radiotherapy is the most commonly used treatment for patients with localised prostate cancer in the UK. It works by damaging a cell’s deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) so that it can no longer survive. External beam radiotherapy uses linear accelerators to deliver small daily fractions of radiotherapy to the prostate gland. In brachytherapy, radioactive sources are implanted into the prostate gland.

Stereotactic ablative body radiotherapy is a method of delivering precise radiotherapy in fewer, higher dose fractions than conventional radiotherapy. The main short-term side effects of prostate radiotherapy include dysuria, urinary retention or diarrhoea. In the longer term, a minority of patients have difficulties with urinary or faecal urgency or incontinence or rectal bleeding. Fatigue can also have a significant effect on patients’ quality of life during and after treatment. Newer methods of delivering radiotherapy such as intensity modulated and stereotactic ablative body radiotherapy have been developed to deliver the maximum dose to the tumour while reducing side effects.

Full reference:Cancer Nursing Practice, 2016, 15(1):27-33 Radiotherapy for patients with prostate cancer Kathryn Banfill, Aileen Duffton, and David Dodds


NICE guidance: sunlight exposure risks and benefits

NICE has published new guidance Sunlight exposure: risks and benefits (NG34).

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This guideline covers how to communicate the risks and benefits of natural sunlight exposure (specifically, the ultraviolet rays UVA and UVB) to help people understand why they may need to modify their behaviour to reduce their risk of skin cancer and vitamin D deficiency.

NICE has also updated its public health guidance Skin cancer prevention (PH32). The guideline covers the provision of shade as part of the design of new buildings.

Related video: Cancer Research UK: Sun Smart Sun Burn video

NICE guidance: Myeloma / Cancer of the upper aerodigestive tract

NICE has published two new guidance guidelines the details are as follows: 

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  • Myeloma: diagnosis and management (NG35) this guideline covers the diagnosing and managing of myeloma (including smouldering myeloma and primary plasma cell leukaemia) in people aged 16 and over. It aims to improve care for people with myeloma by promoting the most effective tests and treatments for myeloma and its complications.


Use and effectiveness of quitlines versus Web-based tobacco cessation interventions among 4 state tobacco control programs

Neri, A. et al. Cancer. Article first published online: 8 February 2016

Image source: Raul Liberwirth
Background: Comparative effectiveness studies of state tobacco quitlines and Web-based tobacco cessation interventions are limited. In 2009, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention undertook a study of the comparative effectiveness of state quitlines and Web-based tobacco cessation interventions.Methods: Standardized questionnaires were administered to smokers who enrolled exclusively in either quitlines or Web-based tobacco cessation services in 4 states in 2011-2012. The primary outcome was the 30-day point prevalence abstinence (PPA) rate at 7 months both between and within interventions.

Results: A total of 4086 participants were included in the analysis. Quitline users were significantly older, more heterogeneous in terms of race and ethnicity, less educated, less likely to be employed, and more often single than Web-based users. The 7-month 30-day PPA rate was 32% for quitline users and 27% for Web-based users. Multivariate models comparing 30-day PPA rates between interventions indicated that significantly increased odds of quitting were associated with being partnered, not living with another smoker, low baseline cigarette use, and more interactions with the intervention. After adjustments for demographic and tobacco use characteristics, quitline users had 1.26 the odds of being abstinent in comparison with Web-based users (95% confidence interval, 1.00-1.58; P = .053).

Conclusions: This is one of the largest comparative effectiveness studies of state tobacco cessation interventions to date. These findings will help public health agencies develop and tailor evidence-based tobacco cessation programs. Further research should focus on users of Web-based cessation interventions sponsored by state health departments and their cost-effectiveness.

Read the full abstract here

Dogs accelerate the advance of new cancer treatments for both pets and people

National review shows studying cancer in dogs offers ‘a unique opportunity’ for helping patients, saving time and decreasing costs


A new review suggests integrating dogs with naturally occurring cancers into studies of new drug therapeutics could result in better treatments for our four-legged friends while helping inform therapeutic development for human cancers. The review hopes to close the gap between human and canine cancer research, and accelerate the knowledge developed by studying cancer in both people and pets, a field known as comparative oncology.

Read the original research abstract here

Read the full commentary here

Reimagining care for adolescent and young adult cancer programs: Moving with the times

Gupta, A. A. et al. Cancer. Article first published online: 5 February 2016

Literature regarding the development of adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer programs has been dominantly informed by pediatric centers and practitioners. However, the majority of young adults are seen and treated at adult cancer centers, in which cancer volumes afford the development of innovative supportive care services. Although the supportive care services in adult cancer centers are helpful to AYAs, some of the most prominent and distinct issues faced by AYAs are not adequately addressed through these services alone.

This article describes how the AYA Program at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre has collaborated with existing supportive care services in addition to supplying its own unique services to meet the comprehensive needs of AYAs in the domains of: symptom management (sexuality and fatigue), behavior modification (return to work and exercise), and health services (advanced cancer and survivorship). These collaborations are augmented by patient education interventions and timely referrals. The objective of this article was to assist other centers in expanding existing services to address the needs of AYA patients with cancer.

MPs find no evidence that Cancer Drugs Fund was spent wisely

Hawkes, N. BMJ 2016;352:i755

Image source: Community Friend

A total of £1.27bn (€1.7bn; $1.9bn) has so far been spent on the Cancer Drugs Fund in England, but no data exist to show whether it has been spent wisely, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee says in a new report.


Despite the Department of Health noting when the fund was set up in 2010 that it was important to collect clinical outcomes from the drugs it pays for, few data exist. The department encouraged NHS trusts to collect data but did not require them to do so. When NHS England took over the fund in April 2014 it made data collection mandatory, but the committee still found gaps for 2014-15, with 93% of records having no summary of outcomes.

The health department and NHS England “have not managed the fund effectively” the report concluded.

On the positive side, the committee found that the gap between the United Kingdom and other advanced economies in the uptake of novel cancer treatments had narrowed. In 2009 use of new cancer drugs in the UK was only 45% of the average figure across 13 other countries. But by 2013 it had reached 92%, and NHS England said that it was likely to have improved still further since then. The committee considered that the fund must have contributed to this improvement, even though it applies only in England and not in the rest of the UK.

Carry on reading the commentary article here

Read the full parliamentary report here