You may have read on this blog about World Cancer Research Fund’s (WCRF) scientific conference on cancer prevention earlier this month.
Well now you can see it for yourself, as we have uploaded videos of some of the speakers to our website:
Dr Francesco Branca: The Director of the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development at the World Health Organization (WHO) talks about the opportunities and challenges related to cancer and nutrition around the world.
Prof W Philip T James: The President of the International Association for the Study of Obesity (IASO) gives a global perspective on obesity, physical activity and cancer.
Prof Ricardo Uauy: From the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the UK and the University of Santiago in Chile, Prof Uauy looks about how early we should be concerned with cancer prevention.
Prof Sir Michael Marmot: Sir Michael, from University College London, looks at the implications of global inequalities for research, practice and policy.
Dr Chris Wild: The Director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) talks about two-way translational research for understanding cancer aetiology.
Prof Elio Riboli: The Director of the School of Public Health at Imperial College London talks about preventability and its potential public health impact.
As well as these videos, the WCRF International website has audio clips and slides from some of the other speakers.
To be fair, it does set the study into context to a certain extent by saying:
“The two studies, which have been published in the British Journal of Nutrition and Biochemical Pharmacology, provide new insight into the potential anti cancer effects of watercress, although more work still needs to be done to determine the direct impact watercress has on decreasing cancer risk.”
But this sentence was in the ninth paragraph. I would argue that proper context means making it much more prominent.
And it is not helped by the following paragraph, which quotes a member of the Watercress Alliance, which funded the study:
“We are very excited by the outcome of Professor Packham’s work which builds on the body of research which supports the idea that watercress may have an important role to play in limiting cancer development.”
So even if you do read the press release right to the end, you still get the impression that this study might actually be an important breakthrough, after all.
The Policy Report WCRF published last year made it clear that the media reporting of cancer risk is an important public health issue.
I was one of the judges for three communications categories.
The standard of entry was very high, and speaking personally it was extremely interesting to spend a morning back in July with my fellow judges discussing the merits of various campaigns or annual reports.
So it was great to be there last night to see the winners pick up their hard-earned awards.
And as well as being an enjoyable evening, it was also a good reminder of the high level of talent we are lucky to have across the charity sector.
There is a lot of interest in research for cancer survivors – how do we improve survival rates and reduce the risk of cancer recurrence for this growing number of people?
At the WCRF conference today we heard insightful summaries of what we currently know and where we need more research.
Professor Josette Chor of the Chinese University of Hong Kong gave a picture of cancer survivorship in Asia.
The overriding message was that lots more research is needed on topics such as: physical activity, the Westernisation of Asian diets, traditional medicines, genetic differences and important stages of life.
Dr Michelle Harvie from the University of Manchester gave a Western perspective, where there is a larger body of research.
As in Asia, the number of cancer survivors in the West is increasing.
For example, in the UK there are 2 million cancer survivors, and this number is growing by 3.2% a year. Breast cancer survivors make up 28% of this group of people.
So what do we know about factors that affect cancer recurrence and survival?
The best evidence so far relates to breast cancer.
Dr Harvie explained that, for breast cancer, a patient’s weight and how much exercise they do seem to be particularly important for cancer recurrence and survival.
WCRF cancer statistics show that obese women are at a higher risk of breast cancer, and studies also suggest treatment for breast cancer may be less successful for obese women. But more research on this is needed.
Another key question for researchers is whether lifestyle changes after diagnoses (for example, losing weight or becoming more active) can improve chances of successful treatment. For breast cancer, some research suggests this is the case.
Like many chronic diseases, cancer often affects the poorest in society most.
This was one of the messages of Professor Sir Michael Marmot’s address to the conference this morning.
His presentation was a stark reminder of how much variation there is in life expectancies within different countries.
For example, life expectancy for Icelandic men is 80. In Sierra Leone, it is just 40.
Some of the most shocking figures show how life expectancy varies simply according to what part of a city you live in.
In an affluent area of Glasgow, male life expectency is 82 while in one of the poorest areas of the city, it is just 54. This is eight years less than in India.
Men from the most deprived areas of Glasgow are dying prematurely from heart disease, cancer, and alcohol-related illnesses.
Sir Michael also emphasised that there is a social gradient of health – it’s not just the gap between those at the top and the bottom that’s important. And this gradient is gradually getting steeper.
Looking at the global picture, as low- and middle-income countries become more industrialised and urbanised, the number of people in these countries who are affected by cancer is expected to rise significantly.
But there is no reason to accept that these figures are unavoidable.
We can change things dramatically in a relatively short time if we can get a handle on the causes of the causes of diseases like cancer.
For example, what causes people to smoke or become obese? And how can we change these factors?
Professor Marmot argued that all policies – not just health policies – should be screened for their impact on health and health equity so that we all have the chance to lead healthy lives.