March 26, 2015


A large pilot study of a new bowel cancer screening test has demonstrated a major increase in participation rates across population groups.

This new data is being presented by Bowel Cancer Screening Hubs and Queen Mary University of London at Cancer Research UK’s early diagnosis conference in London today (Friday).

The new test is called a Faecal Immunochemical Test or FIT for short.

In addition to being able to detect many more cancers and pre-cancers, the pilot of FIT in 40,000 people in the northwest, midlands and the south of England showed almost double the uptake with FIT than with the current test (guaiac faecal occult blood test or gFOBt) for those who had previously chosen not to participate (14.5 per cent climbed to 25.6 per cent).

Marked improvement in uptake was also observed in 60 year olds invited for the first time – an increase from 54.4 per cent to 63.9 per cent. For men of all ages there was an uplift from 57 per cent to 65.5 per cent participation.

The authors also showed improvement in uptake across the socioeconomic spectrum with as great an overall increase amongst the ‘hard to reach’ deprived population as among the least deprived.

The new test only requires one stool sample while three are required for the current gFOBt. FIT uses a simple and cleaner sampling technique and comes in an easy-return postal package.

The new screening test eliminates potential dietary interference and can measure very low concentrations of stool blood from bleeding colon cancers and pre-cancers.

Scotland have recently committed to the adoption of FIT and it is also recommended in the European Guideline for colorectal cancer screening.

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of early diagnosis, said: “These results provide real encouragement that FIT can further improve our ability to increase screening uptake and detect bowel cancer early.  Cancer Research UK recommends that each nation’s bowel screening programme should combine Bowel Scope Screening – also known as flexible sigmoidoscopy – with FIT. We know that Scotland has already committed to upgrading their screening programme, and we urge the other UK nations to do the same without delay.”

Deborah Alsina, chief executive, Bowel Cancer UK: “Currently only around half of those invited take part in the NHS bowel cancer screening programme, meaning opportunities to detect cancer early are being lost. These exciting results clearly show that introducing the FIT test as part of the screening programme could help address that. Both by increasing participation and detecting more bowel cancers.  We therefore urge England, Wales and Northern Ireland to follow Scotland’s lead and rapidly commit to implementation.  It will save lives and help us stop bowel cancer.”


continue reading
March 26, 2015

BT’s Paul Litchfield appointed Chair of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing

Dr Paul Litchfield, Chief Medical Officer and Director of Wellbeing, Inclusion, Safety & Health for BT Group, has been appointed as Chair of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing.

Paul Litchfield takes over from Lord Gus O’Donnell, who has been acting as interim Chair since the Centre’s launch in October.

Lord O’Donnell said: “I am delighted that Paul Litchfield is taking over from me as Chair of the What Works Centre on Wellbeing. Paul has shown at BT that it is possible for an employer to raise the wellbeing of their staff, which is hugely important of itself, but also leads to higher productivity. Given the long term challenges facing the UK, such as low productivity, ageing, and growing, unmet mental health challenges, the Centre could not ask for a better qualified Chairman than Paul. We worked together on the Wellbeing and Mental Health Committee of the World Economic Forum, where I realised what a fantastic global reputation Paul has in these areas. I am looking forward to supporting him as the Centre’s patron, helping to put wellbeing where it belongs at the top of the UK’s policy agenda.”

Paul Litchfield said: “I am delighted and honoured to have been appointed as Chair of the new What Works for Wellbeing Centre.  There is a growing realisation that human progress cannot be measured solely on the basis of financial measures and that people’s wellbeing is a fundamental indicator of societal success.  There are many opinions on what drives wellbeing but less hard evidence for what works.  The Centre gives us the opportunity to address this deficiency and to provide decision makers with the tools to formulate more effective policy.  The UK is leading the way in this area and I am proud to be able to contribute in some small way.”


continue reading
March 23, 2015

Homeopathy is not an effective treatment for any health condition, report concludes

A large review by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council has concluded that homeopathy is not an effective treatment for any health condition. It cautioned that people who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence.

The council conducted an extensive assessment of scientific evidence to develop a position statement on homeopathy. It concluded that ” the review found no good quality, well designed studies with enough participants to support the idea that homeopathy works better than a placebo, or causes health improvements equal to those of another treatment.”

Homeopathy should not be used to treat health conditions that were chronic, serious or that could become serious, the Council recommended.

BMJ 2015; 350:h1478

Hurrah for a clear and authoritative statement on this vexed topic Editor.

continue reading
March 23, 2015


CANCER RESEARCH UK scientists at UCL have found that weight discrimination is linked to significantly lower quality of life, and accounts for approximately 40 per cent of the negative psychological effects associated with obesity in older people, according to research published today (Tuesday) in Obesity*.

Obesity is linked to higher risks of cancer, including bowel, womb, oesophageal and pancreatic cancers, as well as a range of other health conditions. It is thought that more than one in 20 cancers in the UK are linked to being overweight or obese.

The team analysed data from 5,056 English adults over the age of 50. They  found that those who felt they had been discriminated against because of  their weight had an increase in symptoms of depression, a drop in quality of life and lower life satisfaction relative to those who did not perceive weight discrimination.

Participants were asked whether they experienced day-to-day discrimination that they attributed to their weight. Examples of discrimination include being treated disrespectfully, receiving poor service in shops, and being harassed**. Psychological wellbeing was assessed based on quality of life, life satisfaction and symptoms of depression.

Senior author Professor Jane Wardle, director of the Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Centre at UCL, said: “Obesity is linked to the development of several cancer types so it’s crucial that people are supported and respected to help them lose weight, and cut this risk.

“Our important research confirms humiliating people about their weight is part of the obesity problem – not the solution – building on our earlier work showing that weight discrimination doesn’t encourage weight loss.

“There’s evidence that people are picked on about their weight by the general public as well as health professionals and many obese patients report being treated disrespectfully, including by doctors. Everyone should stop blaming and shaming people for their weight, and offer support, and, where appropriate, treatment.”

The data comes from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), a study of adults aged 50 or older. The researchers analysed the results to check whether the known association between obesity and poorer psychological wellbeing could in any part be explained by weight-related discrimination. They found that when perceived weight discrimination was accounted for, differences in wellbeing between obese and non-obese individuals were reduced substantially, suggesting that discrimination may be an important cause of low wellbeing for obese people.

Lead author Dr Sarah Jackson, from the UCL department of epidemiology and public health, said: “In the United Kingdom, the Equality Act 2010 legally protects individuals from discrimination on the basis of age, sex, race, disability, religion or beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy, or gender reassignment; making it clear that discriminatory behaviour of this nature is not to be accepted.”

“Our results indicate that discriminatory experiences contribute to poorer psychological wellbeing in individuals with obesity.”


continue reading
March 19, 2015


WOMEN who received a text message reminding them about their breast cancer screening appointment were 20 per cent more likely to attend than those who were not texted, according to a study published in the British Journal of Cancer today (Thursday)*.

Researchers, funded by the Imperial College Healthcare Charity, trialled text message reminders for women aged 47-53 years old who were invited for their first appointment for breast cancer screening.

The team compared around 450 women who were sent a text with 435 women who were not texted**. It found that 72 per cent of women who were sent a text message reminder attended their screening appointment, compared with 60 per cent who were not.

Text message reminders had the biggest impact on women from the most deprived areas who were 28 per cent more likely to attend their first screening appointment if they were sent a text.

The research found that women were almost three times more likely to cancel their appointment in advance if they were sent a text message reminder.

Lead author, Robert Kerrison, at the Cancer Research UK health behaviour unit at UCL, said: “We all forget things now and then, and doctor’s appointments are no exception – in fact, forgetting is one of the most commonly cited reasons why women miss breast cancer screening appointments.

“Our research found that a cheap, simple text-message-reminder could boost the number of women – especially those from deprived areas – attending screening, or cancelling in advance. More trials are needed to confirm this, but texting could save valuable NHS resources.”

Ian Lush, chief executive of Imperial College Healthcare Charity, said: “The potential positive impact the study could have on the UK population’s health is huge and goes far beyond the borders of London where the text message service was originally trialled. Research outcomes like this confirm the need for the charity to continue funding such pioneering work which will continue to help improve the health of the population.”

Dr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK’s head of health information, said: “Research like this can help tackle practical barriers that sometimes stop women from attending screening appointments. Cancer screening can save lives, but it’s important to remember there are risks as well as benefits. People should also receive good quality information to help them decide whether to take up a screening invitation.”

continue reading