News round-up (8 September 2023)

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8th September 2023 about a 6 minute read

A new global study has found a big increase in cases of cancer among people under the age of 50 in the past 30 years – though this may be partly accounted for by factors such as a rise in the global population. Two stories this week feature public health concerns, as experts call for policies to tackle the consumption of harmful ultra-processed food and new figures show a rise in the number of young women vaping daily. Cancer Research UK has drawn attention to the number of lives saved by improvements in cancer prevention and treatment, but warns that many cancer patients now face long waits to be seen.

Big worldwide increase in cases of cancer among under-50s

The number of cancer cases worldwide among people under-50 has risen sharply in the past 30 years, according to a new study published in BMJ Oncology.

The research found that there were 3.26 million cases in 2019 – 79% more than in 1990. However, researchers did not take into account the 40% rise in the global population during that period, which would account for some of the rise. It is also possible that reporting of cancer cases has improved over the 30-year period, and the research team, which included experts from the US, China and the UK, said that it was not possible to draw firm conclusions. They speculated, however, that lifestyle factors, including obesity, diets high in red meat and salt, and physical inactivity, might have played a part in increasing the number of cancer cases among people between the ages of 14 and 49.

Rise in the number of young women in UK who vape every day

More young women in the UK are vaping daily, according to a survey carried out by the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

The proportion of women aged 16 to 24 who said they were using vapes every day increased from 1.9% in 2021 to 6.7% in 2022. This amounts to a rise from 62,000 to 225,000 across the UK in a single year.

More than one in 10 women in this age group said they were daily or occasional users in 2022.

The ONS used data from its Opinions and Lifestyle Survey, a poll of 16,300 people over the age of 16 in Britain, as well as numbers from an Annual Population Survey involving 320,000 adults.

The proportion of people using vapes was highest among current cigarette smokers (27.1%) and former smokers (16.5%).

Number of deaths on NHS waiting lists doubles in five years

The number of patients dying while on an NHS waiting list has doubled in five years, according to new figures.

More than 120,000 people died while on waiting lists last year, higher than the number in lockdown. A freedom of information (FOI) request from the Labour Party found that the 35 trusts who responded reported 35,000 deaths of patients on waiting lists between them. Extrapolated to England as a whole, that suggests 121,000 deaths in total, including 40,000 people who had waited more than 18 weeks for treatment by the time they died.

Matthew Taylor, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “These figures are a stark reminder about the potential repercussions of long waits for care. They are heartbreaking for the families who will have lost loved ones and deeply dismaying for NHS leaders, who continue to do all they can in extremely difficult circumstances.”

More effort needed to tackle ultra-processed food, experts say

Doctors and scientists are calling for policymakers to put in place measures to improve the national diet, after a number of studies have demonstrated the harmful effects of consuming ultra-processed food (UPF).

Suggested strategies for tackling the problem include combating the aggressive marketing of UPF, removing the food industry’s influence over policymaking and making sure healthy foods are affordable, accessible and enjoyable.

Recent studies have linked UPF to raised blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. Earlier studies have found higher rates of heart diseaseobesity and some cancers in those who eat the most UPF.

“We have a food system driven by profit and cost and that makes it a challenge, but the solutions are out there,” said Duane Mellor, a dietitian and senior lecturer at Aston University. “It’s not an unsolvable problem.”

‘Golden era’ of cancer treatment in UK has saved 1m lives

More than a million lives have been saved as the result of a “golden era” of progress in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment in the UK, an analysis by Cancer Research UK has found.

The charity’s findings suggest that major advances in treating and preventing cancer over the last four decades have prevented 1.2 million deaths. Progress has not been equal across all cancers, and women have not reaped as many of the benefits as men, the study found.

“The fact that over a million lives have been saved from cancer in this time reflects the power of research. Discoveries into more effective and kinder treatments, improvements to screening programmes, and strategies to help detect and prevent cancer have all been essential to this,” said Michelle Mitchell, the charity’s chief executive.

While the analysis showed the UK was “beating cancer,” Mitchell said there was still cause for concern. “Despite these hard-fought gains, the situation for people affected by cancer across the UK remains worrying. Long waiting times are leaving many people facing fear and uncertainty.”

National flu vaccine system to be switched off ahead of winter flu campaign

NHS England has cancelled its contract with the supplier of the current national flu and Covid-19 vaccination IT system.

The National Immunisation Management Service (NIMS) that covers the Covid-19 and flu vaccination system was switched off at the end of August, just days before the start of the annual flu vaccination campaign on 7 September.

The decision was taken after NHS England failed to agree a contract extension for the supplier, System C/Graphnet.

NIMS is based on a single data store holding vaccination records for more than 60 million people. It provides call and recall functionality for vaccine appointments, as well as reporting and analysis.

A contract to support a replacement system has been awarded to the Leeds technology firm Aire Logic under the Digital Capabilities for Health Framework.