Monday, October 10, 2011

Skin cancer 'lifesaver': The 5p heart pill that stops tumours growing (?)

A rather strange report: Beta blockers do not prevent melanoma but if you are taking them when you get melanoma the cancerous cells are slightly less likely to spread. The effect is tiny anyway so tells us nothing about causes

Pills costing just 5p a day could save the lives of thousands of patients with the deadliest form of skin cancer, researchers claim. Beta blockers have been shown to reduce the death rate by 13 per cent by preventing tumours spreading to other organs.

The drugs are commonly handed out to hundreds of thousands to treat high blood pressure and heart problems. But an international team of scientists has found that they can also help those with malignant melanoma, giving them a greater chance of survival.

Researchers from Ohio State University in the U.S. and Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark looked at the records of 4,000 people with the condition.

The group included 372 patients who were also being prescribed beta blockers for high blood pressure or heart problems.

The scientists found that those who had been taking the drugs for at least three months before they were diagnosed with cancer were 13 per cent less likely to die within five years.

Beta blockers have been used to treat high blood pressure and heart conditions, including irregular heartbeats and angina, since the Sixties.

They slow the patient’s heartbeat by preventing the release of certain stress hormones, which means the heart does not have to pump so hard and blood pressure comes down. Now experts think they may also prevent cancer from spreading by stopping the growth of blood vessels that supply tumours.

However, they stress that there is no evidence that the pills prevent skin cancer. Writing in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, the researchers concluded: ‘Our data did not reveal any impact of beta-blocker use on the incidence of cancer. ‘But the drugs may have unrecognised potential as a therapeutic intervention for melanoma and possibly other forms of cancer.’

Rates of malignant melanoma have doubled in the past decade. There are more than 10,000 new cases every year, and 2,000 deaths.

The disease’s rise has been partly attributed to holidaymakers spending too much time in the sun. The soaring popularity of sunbeds has also been blamed.

Skin cancer tumours, which first manifest themselves as a small mole on the skin, can be surgically removed if caught early enough. However, once they have spread to other parts of the body – such as the lungs, liver, bones and brain – the disease is usually terminal.


The Jaffa Cake doughnuts that prove a fat tax will never work

By Janet Street Porter

Concerned about rising levels of obesity, David Cameron is enthusiastic about imposing a new tax on food that contains more than 2.3 per cent saturated fat.

Denmark is the first country to impose this ‘fat tax’ — Danes now pay 25p more for a small pack of butter and 9p extra for a normal-size burger.

The Danes are very different to the Brits — although they (like us) produce fabulous butter and delicious bacon, they’re relatively slim. Just 10 per cent of the population rate as chubby, well under the EU average of 15.5 per cent — while we’re top-ranked, with 24.5 per cent of Brits carrying excess kilos.

If the current rate of guzzling continues, 70 per cent of the UK will be overweight by 2050, meaning massive costs for the poverty-stricken NHS.

There’s no denying our backsides are spreading fast — but is taxing demon foods the answer?

Picking on fat as the sole reason for health problems is bizarre — sugar, salt and carbs consumed to excess can be just as problematic. Even so, plenty of governments are keen to change the way their voters eat. Diet has stopped being a matter of personal choice and become an activity that has to be monitored, taxed and controlled.

Hungary imposed a tax on food with high levels of sugar, salt, caffeine and carbs. Trans fats are banned in Switzerland, Austria and Denmark. The fat tax is under consideration in Finland and Romania. Once, eating was a simple pleasure, now it’s something nanny states want to police.

Sadly for Cameron, Fat Tax UK is one piece of social engineering that’s doomed to failure.

Digest this news: Greggs, the High Street baker, astonished industry analysts last week with an impressive increase in sales, bucking recent trends in retailing. Tesco has just reported the worse set of figures for 20 years, and Sainsbury’s launches a new pricing campaign this Wednesday in an effort to prop up sales.

A bitter battle is being fought by food retailers — so what is Greggs’ secret weapon? The answer is — a big doughnut!

The baker has sold 1.4 million of its new ‘superstar’ doughnuts in five weeks. The humble jam doughnut has been sexed up and re-launched as coconut snowball, choc vanilla and strawberry milkshake. All have proved winners and the most popular is the Jaffa Cake doughnut, combining two fattening treats in one.

And when Westfield opened its new shopping mall next to the Olympic stadium, Greggs broke its own sales records in one day. It is hardly flogging the food of sporting heroes.

The new doughnuts have their own Twitter and YouTube profiles and their Facebook page has 280,000 ‘friends’. Each of these ‘superstar’ doughnuts (promoted online with fictitious biographies) contains a whopping 320 to 420 calories — and they are being sold in boxes of four as a special promotion.

I know little about what makes a trendy doughnut, but I accept we Brits love stodge in all its fattening forms. We gave the world jam roly-poly, Bakewell Tart, Spotted Dick, steak and kidney pudding and the jumbo sausage roll.

The Great British Bake Off has been the telly hit of the season — featuring calorie-laden sponges and profiteroles piled high with cream. Jamie Oliver’s new cookbook, Jamie’s Great Britain, features mini Yorkshire puddings and recommends storing left-over goose fat to roast potatoes.

Yes! Just typing this list of scrumptiousness makes me feel peckish. The need for solid, filling food is ingrained in our genes. When the weather turns chilly, I’m not going to be planning a salad or a bit of steamed chicken, but a hotpot or a stew.

Labour considered a fat tax in 2004, when a study suggested it might prevent up to 3,200 deaths a year and raise £2 billion in extra revenue. So why hasn’t it been introduced before? The Institute for Fiscal Studies thinks a fat tax would cost the poor more than the middle classes — undoubtedly true as cheap food contains the most additives.

The healthiest way to eat is to cook fresh ingredients from scratch — something few people do. Those on minimum wages have little money, time or inclination. It will take a whole generation of teaching cookery in primary schools to change ingrained eating habits and poor nutrition, not a fat tax.

If you want to lose weight, eat less off a smaller plate. It costs nothing and works like a dream. The only thing required is will power, and that’s in short supply. As the triumph of Jaffa Cake doughnuts proves, in these depressing economic times, we want to eat something naughty to cheer ourselves up.


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