Pill that can help detect cancer?!

There is a newly developed ‘pill on a string’, developed at the University of Cambridge which can help doctors detect oesophageal cancer. This pill is swallowed, and once it has dissolved and travelled down the oesophagus, it forms a ‘cytosponge’ that scrapes off over half a million cells when withdrawn up the gullet, that can be tested for oesophageal cancer. Through scraping off the cells the entirety of the passage of the gullet, it allows doctors to collect cells from all along the gullet, whereas standard biopsies take individual point samples.

This development is potentially a revolutionary investigation and can make a huge difference in terms of investigating patients with potential malignancy or premalignant conditions in the oesophagus, and because this can now be done more simply, more cost effective and now patients are able to be potentially monitored much more easily. Most oesophageal cancers occur in the lower third of the oesophagus. Incidence rates for oesophageal cancer are projected to fall by 3% in the UK between 2014 and 2035, to 18 cases per 100,000 people by 2034. 1 in 55 men and 1 in 115 women will be diagnosed with oesophageal cancer during their lifetime. This discovery is likely to save many lives ultimately and prevent advanced cancer of the oesophagus. 



E- cigarettes leaking toxic metals?!

E- cigarettes have always been said to be healthier than normal cigarettes, but is that actually the case? A study has found that these popular devices leak harmful metals, some of them highly toxic.

E- cigarettes work by heating up flavoured liquids which sometimes contain nicotine and rather than releasing smoke, they release aerosols. It has been found that people who use E-cigarettes may have a higher risk of cancer and cardiovascular problems, as well as certain E-cigarette flavours being particularly toxic. Some of the metal comes from the heating of the coils inside the E-cigarette leaking toxic metals which then get into the aerosols that people inhale, however it is not confirmed yet where the other metal comes from.

The metals found which cause for concern are manganese, lead, nickel and chromium, all of which have been linked with important health risks, including cancer, brain damage, and disorders of the respiratory system.

“We’ve established with this study that there are exposures to these metals, which is the first step,” says Rule, adding that there is a “need also to determine the actual health effects.”








Only one cigarette a day makes your risk of stroke or heart disease greater.

For coronary heart disease, men who smoked one cigarette a day had 46% of the excess relative risk for smoking 20 cigarettes a day (53% using only the relative risks adjusted for multiple cofounders). For stroke, men who smoked had 41% of the excess risk for smoking 20 cigarettes a day (64% using multiple factor adjusted relative risks).

For coronary heart disease, women who smoked one cigarette a day had 31% of the excess risk (38% using multiple factor adjusted relative risks).  For stroke, women who smoked had 34% of the excess risk for smoking 20 cigarettes a day (36% using multiple factor adjusted relative risks).

As you can see from these statistics, there is not a very large difference at in comparison to how likely someone is to develop either coronary heart disease or stroke who smokes one cigarettes a day to someone who smokes 20 cigarettes a day, which I found very shocking.



Can onions help save people?!

As I have touched on in a previous article about over-diagnosis there has been a huge rise in drug resistance, and so as a result we need to develop new antibiotics or improve current antibiotics. Drug resistance is the ability of microbes (e.g. bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi) to grow in the presence of a drug that would normally kill it or limit its growth. A new study has shown that onions may be able to help us treat drug-resistant tuberculosis. 

Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection which is spread through inhaling droplets from the coughs or sneezes of an infected person. It mainly affects the lungs however it can affect any part of the body, including the glands, bones and nervous system. Internationally, tuberculosis which is resistant to the two strongest anti-tuberculosis drugs, affects more than 480,000 people annually.

Dr. Sanjib Bhakta — of the Institute of Structural and Molecular Biology at Birkbeck— and colleagues have identified a number of onion-derived compounds that can kill tuberculosis bacteria. The compounds come from a type of onion ( Allium Stipitatum), known for its antibacterial properties. They then tested the effects of these compounds on various drug-resistant bacteria, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which is the bacterial species that causes tuberculosis. They found that the compounds from the onions showed inhibitory effects against several bacteria, and was found to inhibit the growth of Mycobacterium tuberculosis by 99.9%!

This study has the potential to make a big contribution in finding other similar compounds which could be used to inhibit the growth of these drug resistance microbes and ultimately help in largely reducing the effects of these serious diseases.

Donate my organs???

Should organ donations be in the ‘opt out’ system rather than the ‘opt in’ system?

The way that the ‘opt out’ system works is that rather than people saying that they would like to donate their organs and signing up to it as our current system now says, people will be presumed to want to donate their organs unless they have otherwise expressed a wish not to.

There are many reasons why some people don’t want to donate their organs for example religious reasons and some people many believe that it will affect you in an after life. Others, however, may have a particular desire to be cremated.

On the other hand there are many reasons why people do want to donate their organs. You will be able to save lives. Around 90,000 people are waiting for organ donations every month, and roughly 20 people a month die who could otherwise have been saved by available organs. Through being an organ donor you can help you to save several lives and a single donor can touch the lives of up to 50 people.

So why should we have the ‘opt out’ system? The number of people whose lives could be saved by a transplant is rising more rapidly than the number of willing donors and so this will help provide the much needed organs. As well as this doctors and surgeons can be trusted not to abuse the licence which a change of the law would grant them. Ultimately, we will saving a much greater proportion of lives. 

However there are also problems with the ‘opt out’ system. Organ removal without the expressed wish of the deceased could be distressing for his or her family. As well as this the proposed change in the law is open to abuse, with the possibility of death being hastened to secure an organ needed by some other patient. This system leads us to question whether this person is really giving their consent for this happen. The definition of consent is where someone has permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.

Although the opt out system is not explicit consent, are we right to just assume consent?

If you wish to donate your organ, please register to be an organ donor with this link- https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk

Whats happening in 2018?

The headlines predicted for 2018 by the BBC’s global health correspondent Tulip Mazumdar are-

  • Malaria – it is hoped that for 2018, global leaders will see the urgent need to tackle this problem and invest in a drive for malaria elimination.
  • Famine- with newer technology and a larger number of resources, we are now able to assist more people in more hard to reach places than ever before, however we are not able to help everyone and with a growing population and global warming affecting crops, a large concern for 2018 is how to minimise the effects of famine.
  • Antibiotic resistance – it is becoming increasingly harder to treat people due to the cause developing resistance to the treatment so there will be a much larger drive in order to overcome this. Check out my post on overdiagnosis  for some more information on this!

Some medical advances we can hopefully expect for 2018 are-

  1. Drones distributing medicine to isolated areas
  2. Diseases to be cured through gene editing– CRISPR
  3. Artificial pancreas for diabetes
  4. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients will be able to communicate with their thoughts
  5. Enhanced post surgery recovery – hospitals are looking into post-operative nutrition plans and alternative methods to pain medication to speed up the recovery time
  6. The first human head transplant
  7. Next generation vaccines- freeze drying vaccinations so they can be transported to remote areas more effectively and investigation into faster ways to manufacture vaccinations to make them more readily available
  8. More targeted, precise breast cancer therapies


Wishing you all the best for 2018 

Too young for an eating disorder?

With a recent boom of photoshopped images of 6 ft perfect models spiralling the internet, it is likely to influence the way that we think about ourselves and our own appearance, but from how young are people experiencing this body dysmorphia and how early on is this affecting their eating?


Eating disorders include a range of conditions that can affect someone physically, psychologically and socially, and are noticeably affecting much younger people in particular female, with social media playing a large role in this. The most common eating disorders are: anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating disorder.  An eating disorders accompany behaviours such as restricted eating, binge eating, excessive exercise, vomiting and laxative use, which in turn often lead to other health problems. Although there are many physical problems which can occur with an eating disorder, the psychological effect is not often considered as much. It can cause substantial psychological consequences for example a low mood, low self esteem, suicidal ideation and behaviour, social withdrawal, irritability, increased anxiety and rigidity of thinking.


Treatment for eating disorders is available but it is important to make sure that the person affected wants to get better, and the support of family and friends is invaluable.

Treatment available 

  • self-help manuals and books,
  • cognitive behavioural therapy (changing how a person thinks about a situation which will change how they act)
  • interpersonal psychotherapy (focuses on relationship-based issues)
  • dietary counselling
  • psychodynamic therapy or cognitive analytic therapy (focuses on how a person’s personality and life experiences influence their current thoughts, feelings, relationships and behaviour)
  • family therapy
  • medication, for example a type of antidepressant called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors may be used to treat bulimia nervosa or binge eating

Eating disorders are becoming much more common in this time and it is important of us not to turn a blind eye to this issue and to not underestimate the seriousness of it, and to seek a professionalshelp when needed.


With the aim to diagnose, treat and help people, there is evidence to show that ‘overdiagnosis’ plays a much larger role in this than it should. Overdiagnosis is when a person is labelled or treated for a disease however the disease would not actually cause them significant harm and can lead to the overuse of further tests and treatment.

For example over 500 000 people are estimated to have received overdiagnosis for thyroid cancer across 12 countries in the last 20 years. This leads them to often having surgery and lifelong medication which is not actually needed in the first place.

Some of the key points to do with over diagnosis include:

  • Interest is growing in tackling the problems of overdiagnosis and over treatment
  • Possible drivers and potential solutions arise across five inter- related domains: culture, the health system, industry and technology, healthcare professionals, and patients and the public
  • More work is needed to develop and evaluate interventions aimed at preventing overdiagnosis
  • Raising public awareness of overdiagnosis is a priority

-BMJ 23rd September 2017, 358:421-462 No 8122 / CR ISSN 0959-8138

A main reason for this overdiagnosis is that there are many fears of uncertainty, ageing, death and disease, and in many cultures people believe that in healthcare ‘more is better’, when this is not necessarily always the case.

Possible solutions for this include public awareness and education campaigns to challenge this common belief in healthcare that ‘more is better’. Another possible solution for this is through bringing in incentives for medical professionals to be rewarded based on the quality of their care rather than the quantity of their care.

I understand that the intentions of medical proffessionals are to do what is best for us and that we are brought up in a culture which believes that doing ‘something’ in healthcare is better than doing ‘nothing’, and in the majority of cases this is true. However I also think that it is important that this issue of overdiagnosis is addressed and people are made aware of it so that they can be cautious of the medical treatment that they do received and are fully informed on the extent to which their conditions need to be treated.

Is coffee GOOD or BAD for you?

5 Reasons why coffee is good for you

  1. It boosts your mood– a study found that woman who drank four or more cups of coffee every day were 20 percent less likely to suffer from depression, coffee drinkers were half as likely to attempt suicide
  2. Helps ward off diabetes– people who drink a lot of coffee are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than people who drink smaller amounts, or no coffee at all, according to some studies due to it containing ingredients that lower blood sugar
  3. Protects Your Heart- Two or more cups of coffee each day could protect against heart failure, according to one Harvard Study
  4. Good for Parkinson’s– studies have shown that the caffeine in coffee could help people who have Parkinson’s disease manage their uncontrollable movements. Others have shown that having a higher intake of coffee is associated with a lower risk of Parkinson’s altogether
  5. Lends You a Longer Life– a study that accounted for poor lifestyle habits (eating red meat and skipping exercise, for instance), found that those who drank at least one cup of coffee each day lowered their risk of dying from lifestyle-related health problems over the period of a decade


5 Reasons why coffee is bad for you

  1. The acidity of coffee is associated with digestive discomfort, indigestion and heart burn
  2. The caffeine in coffee increases your stress hormones.  The stress response elicits cortisol and increases insulin.  Insulin increases inflammation and this makes you feel lousy
  3. Addiction is often an issue with coffee drinkers and makes it really difficult to rely on the body’s natural source of energy
  4. It reduces fertility – according to some research it can prevent the full development of eggs
  5. It may cause cancer– emerging research has found that coffee contains acrylamide- a known carcinogen

There are more research and resources that are available to us that suggest coffee has more benefits rather than negative consequences, and so like most things in life, it is probably best to just drink it in moderation!


In my economics lesson today one of the topics we are studying at the moment is how to reduce the effect of demerit goods (a good or service which has greater social costs when it’s consumed than its private costs and tend to be over consumed), and of course your typical demerit goods such as smoking, gambling and sugar came up… But why isn’t there a sugar tax in the UK? It seems easy enough to tax people on their sugary foods to deter them from buying them and surely this benefits everyone?

Well yes it does have a lot of benefits but thats not quite all there is to it...

The taxation would deter people from buying these foods and reduce the risk of conditions such as obesity, type II diabetes, tooth decay, heart disease, and thus also benefiting the NHS as it would reduce the effects of this problems resulting from sugary foods in the UK and so allows the NHS to allocate more of their resources to other health departments.

However it is also important to see the other side of the argument- sugary food is much less expensive than ‘healthier’ foods and so for people on much lower incomes in particular, sugary foods are much more affordable to them. In particular with lower income groups, the sugar tax would take a higher proportion of their income thus making it regressive.


Although both of these arguments are strong arguments and it is something that will be continuously debated, a point most people miss is that a sugar tax isn’t the only solution here….

  1. Something the government could do is subsidise healthier foods (where money is paid by the government to the producer of a good to make them reduce their costs)- this would make healthy foods more available to everyone
  2. Another HUGE problem in todays society is information failure. There is a HUGE information failure in the food market and if this failure were to be counteracted, it would make a large difference to the number of people who have health problems related to sugary foods. For example in your average flavoured yoghurt (silk peach soy yoghurt) there is 15g of sugar!!! Now firstly that figure is not emphasised enough on the packaging of this yoghurt but as well as this it is not a very easily interpreted  figure. 15g of sugar is the equivalent of 4 teaspoons of sugar… 4 teaspoons of sugar in one yoghurt?!?! The average recommended for an adult per day is about 30g for those aged 11 and over… So to put this in perspective you are eating HALF of your recommended intake of sugars for the day in one very small yoghurt!! This information failure needs to be solved and one of the ways I personally think that society would benefit from, is writing the equivalence of the grams of sugar in a food, in teaspoons. This is easily understandable and easy to picture and might help people understand just how much sugar they are eating and lead them to make a healthier choice or to be aware of how much sugar they should aim to eat for the remainder of the day.

Overall, I think that before a sugar tax is considered, we should try to improve other aspects of packaging in sugary foods to counteract the information failure of this industry or subsidise healthier foods and try to make an improvement this way.

Next time you go shopping, think twice about the label!