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Ministers quietly remove 1.3million coronavirus tests from their official figures

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ministers quietly remove 1 3million coronavirus tests from their official figures

Ministers have quietly wiped 1.3million Covid-19 swabs off the official testing count, it emerged today.

Number 10 has repeatedly boasted about the number of tests it is capable of doing – with capacity now reportedly at around 340,000 per day.

But the government has now admitted a staggering one in 10 coronavirus tests were counted twice.

The double-counted tests were added between May 14 and August 12, but the total number of tests ‘made available’ before and after the adjustment is unclear.

The Government describes tests as ‘made available’ because it includes tests sent to people’s homes that are counted whether someone takes the test or not.

A total of 14,142,736 tests have been processed since the coronavirus crisis began to spiral out of control, official figures revealed today.

It comes as MailOnline today revealed Public Health England’s counts of daily cases still includes 30,000 people who were counted twice before July.

Although the total number of people infected has been adjusted down to 313,798, as of yesterday, the sum of all the daily increases amounts to 344,384. 

Although the grand total was changed six weeks ago, officials have been unable to show exactly where and when the 30,000 duplicate positive tests happened.

Number 10 has repeatedly boasted about the number of tests it is capable of doing - with capacity now reportedly at around 340,000 per day. Pictured, a testing site has been set-up outside a sandwich factory in Northampton that is at the centre of an outbreak

Number 10 has repeatedly boasted about the number of tests it is capable of doing - with capacity now reportedly at around 340,000 per day. Pictured, a testing site has been set-up outside a sandwich factory in Northampton that is at the centre of an outbreak

Number 10 has repeatedly boasted about the number of tests it is capable of doing – with capacity now reportedly at around 340,000 per day. Pictured, a testing site has been set-up outside a sandwich factory in Northampton that is at the centre of an outbreak

Public Health England has not adjusted the number of people being diagnosed each day and has shaved off 30,000 positive tests that were counted twice, but it is not clear when or where the people were double-counted

Public Health England has not adjusted the number of people being diagnosed each day and has shaved off 30,000 positive tests that were counted twice, but it is not clear when or where the people were double-counted

Public Health England has not adjusted the number of people being diagnosed each day and has shaved off 30,000 positive tests that were counted twice, but it is not clear when or where the people were double-counted

It is the latest in a string of issues with Government data about the pandemic. Back in May, officials were accused of counting home tests which hadn’t been used.

Matt Hancock was forced to deny claims the tactic was adopted so he could hit his target for 100,000 tests a day by the end of April.

Last month it emerged that Public Health England was recording anyone who ever tested positive as a victim, even if they died in a car crash months after recovering.

There are now five separate measures for fatalities across the UK and experts have dubbed the handling of official statistics ‘confusing’.

And today it emerged 1.3million counted tests have been removed from the official government total because they were counted twice. 

In a statement on the website on Wednesday the Department said: ‘An adjustment of -1,308,071 has been made to the historic data for the “tests made available” metric.

‘The adjustments have been made as a result of more accurate data collection and reporting processes recently being adopted within pillar 2.’

The error reportedly came to light in July but was not corrected until this week, The Guardian reported. 

The Department for Health said there had been ‘a double-counting of test kits that had been dispatched and which had not been removed from the labs processed data’.

Justin Madders, the shadow health minister, told the newspaper that the data on testing had been ‘shambolic’ for months.

He said: ‘To now retrospectively adjust the testing figures by 1.3m overnight – without explanation – is the latest in a long line of chaotic failings by the government on testing.

‘How can we be confident that testing and tracing is working properly when basic data on the number of tests is obviously so flawed? Ministers need to get a grip of this as a matter of urgency.’

The other data error, uncovered by MailOnline, related to case figures – which are just an ‘estimate’ of the real prevalence of the virus.

Confirmed cases account for around a third of the real number of infections because thousands of patients will never develop any symptoms.

But the numbers are still critical for understanding the progress of the outbreak and letting experts analyse the size of the outbreak.

And the daily updates released by the Government will become ever less accurate as the number of people catching the disease gets lower because inevitable false positive results will skew the number to look higher than it really is, experts say.

GOVERNMENT WIPES OFF 1.3MILLION SWAB TESTS OFF ITS COUNT

The Department of Health has wiped 1.3million swab tests off its count of the number of tests done – a staggering 10 per cent of the total, it emerged today.

The Government has repeatedly boasted about the number of tests it is capable of doing – with capacity now reportedly at around 340,000 per day – but it has now emerged one in 10 tests have been counted twice, The Guardian reported.

The double-counted tests had been done between May 14 and August 12, but the total number of tests ‘made available’ before and after the adjustment is unclear.

The Government describes tests as ‘made available’ because it includes tests sent to people’s homes that are counted whether someone takes the test or not.

It says a total 13,785,297 tests had been completed by yesterday, Wednesday August 12.

In a statement on the website on Wednesday the Department said: ‘An adjustment of -1,308,071 has been made to the historic data for the “tests made available” metric. 

‘The adjustments have been made as a result of more accurate data collection and reporting processes recently being adopted within pillar 2.’

The error reportedly came to light in July but was not corrected until this week.  

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Professor Carl Heneghan, an evidence-based medicine expert at the University of Oxford, has followed the Government’s data closely throughout the epidemic.

He said the issue appears to have come from when the Department of Heath split testing into pillars one and two. 

Pillar one refers to tests done in hospitals and medical facilities while pillar two is members of the public who are tested in drive-through, walk-in or home tests.

Professor Heneghan told MailOnline: ‘There is seemingly a problem when you start to introduce pillar one and pillar two tests – they seemed to be double counting tests.  

‘Somebody would have a pillar two test and then gone into hospital and had a pillar one test, and they thought it was two people.’

He said it was unsurprising that data errors were creeping and that some allowances should be made because of a difficult situation, but that it is ‘vital’ that numbers are correct.

Professor Heneghan said: ‘If the number of cases is wrong, the case fatality rate and everything gets skewed.

‘It is vital they’re correct but, to be honest, it doesn’t surprise me there have been areas where you’ve had discrepancies that need to be corrected.’

He added: ‘It does concern me and I think it’s important that data and epidemiology is transparent and it’s clear that [decisions] actually are based on up to date info.

‘What we’re interested in is understanding trends, and information has to be correct for that.’   

Numbers of people diagnosed with the coronavirus are updated each day by the Department of Health and Public Health England.

While the Department of Health is responsible for organising the tests, carrying them out and reporting the results back, PHE controls the statistics. 

The daily new numbers of cases in England add up to a total 344,384, with a peak of 6,201 people getting diagnosed on May 1

The daily new numbers of cases in England add up to a total 344,384, with a peak of 6,201 people getting diagnosed on May 1

The daily new numbers of cases in England add up to a total 344,384, with a peak of 6,201 people getting diagnosed on May 1

But the total number of cases was adjusted on July 2, where a drop of more than 30,000 cases can be seen. No further details about the decline have been offered

But the total number of cases was adjusted on July 2, where a drop of more than 30,000 cases can be seen. No further details about the decline have been offered

But the total number of cases was adjusted on July 2, where a drop of more than 30,000 cases can be seen. No further details about the decline have been offered

NEW CASES ‘MAY NEVER HIT ZERO’ BECAUSE TESTS ALWAYS PRODUCE FALSE POSITIVES

Experts say the number of people being diagnosed with coronavirus will never drop to zero if the UK keeps doing hundreds of thousands of tests – even if they virus is truly gone.

Because the swab tests used to diagnose people with Covid-19 are not perfectly accurate, they will always produce false positive results.

A false positive is when someone gets a positive result even though they don’t actually have the disease.

It can be caused by a cross-reaction, such as another type of coronavirus being picked up by the test, or by faults in the testing process.

The accuracy of swab tests being used in the UK is unclear but one paper submitted to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) estimated that the false positive rate is 2.3 per cent, The Telegraph reported.

This would mean that for every 1,000 people who test positive, 23 people would be wrongly told they were infected. 

As the true number of cases becomes ever lower, this false positive group begins to make up a larger and larger proportion of the numbers announced.

Even when the reality is that there are no cases in the group being tested, false positive results will still occur because the tests aren’t perfect. 

Oxford University’s Professor Carl Heneghan told MailOnline: ‘You get to a point where there’s a greater chance the test result is wrong than it is right.

‘Are we picking up people who have had virus some time ago and still have RNA in their body?’ 

He told the Telegraph: ‘It looks like we’ll struggle to get out of this. We’re now in a spiral of bad data.’ 

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On July 2 officials consolidated their counts of the cases and as a result the total number of people diagnosed dropped by 31,388, from 315,145 to 283,757.

This shows more than 31,000 people had been counted twice in the Government’s testing system up to the end of June.

But despite the total number being updated, the daily numbers were never changed.

The data still shows that May 1 had the highest number of cases of any day in the epidemic so far, with 6,201, and that 33,760 people were diagnosed in that week, from April 27 to May 3. 

But the true number of cases diagnosed in that week cannot be confirmed because hundreds or thousands of those people could have been counted twice.

Dr Simon Clarke, a cellular microbiologist at the University of Reading, said the official data was ‘a bit of mess’.

‘My understanding is it’s still basically an estimate,’ he said. ‘It also needs to be remembered that the diagnoses is way below what the [Office for National Statistics] thinks the real numbers of cases are… 

‘I think it is confusing for people. A lot of people think the numbers they see are it – that that is how many cases there are – but it’s not.’ 

The discrepancy is just one in a string of issues with the Government’s coronavirus data.

Officials this week confirmed they were changing the way they count the number of people who are dying because PHE had been including anyone who died of any cause after a positive test for Covid-19.

Even someone who tested positive in March, then recovered and died after getting hit by a bus in August would have been included in the Covid-19 death toll.

Now the Department of Health is including only people who die within 28 days of their diagnosis, in an attempt to reduce the number of people included wrongly.

NHS England and the devolved governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have been using the 28-day cutoff throughout the outbreak. 

As a result of this change the official death count dropped by 5,000 this Tuesday, from 46,706 to 41,329. 

PHE will still publish weekly stats showing how many people died within 60 days of a positive test, to try and include people who have long stays in hospital or long-lasting Covid-19 illness. 

is week.  

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Up to 50% of people may already have immune cells that could fight coronavirus

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up to 50 of people may already have immune cells that could fight coronavirus

As much as half of the world’s population may have some immunty to coronavirus, a small but growing body of research suggests. 

Tests done on donated blood in the US found that about 50 percent of the samples had immune T cells that reacted to coronavirus, suggesting that the donors’ bodies might have the natural ability to fight of the deadly virus. 

Similar results have been found in the UK and Sweden

COVID-19 is thought to be so deadly in part because it’s an entirely new virus to  which humans have no natural immunity. 

And while that is clearly the case for many people, British Medical Journal associate editor Dr Peter Dosh wrote on Thursday that the evidence is beginning to suggest that some people may possess some protection against the virus. 

Some people may have immune T cells to other coronaviruses that could fight SARS-CoV-2, recent research suggests

Some people may have immune T cells to other coronaviruses that could fight SARS-CoV-2, recent research suggests

Some people may have immune T cells to other coronaviruses that could fight SARS-CoV-2, recent research suggests 

In March, a member of a Skagit  County, Washington choir went to their usual practice, feeling a bit ill, but unaware that they had coronavirus. 

Within a week, that person and another had tested positive for the virus that causes  COVID-19. Another 25 members of the 122-person choir had symptoms of coronavirus. 

In the weeks that followed, 52 of the other 60 people who attended the practice would develop COVID-19. 

The choir practice was dubbed a superspreader event, and became an early indicator that certain activities – like singing – might facilitate transmission of coronavirus. 

Scientists saw the practice as a unique opportunity to study how infectious coronavirus can be. 

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But less talked-about were the eight attendees who did not get sick, or why.

Research has shown that people are more likely to catch coronavirus and become severely ill from it if they are exposed repeatedly, but this group shared a clear common exposure. 

One unexplored explanation might be that some  people have pre-existing immunity to coronavirus.  

Most research on coronavirus immunity has focused on antibodies, immune cells that develop after the body has been exposed to a new pathogen. They’re tailor-made to fight that particular virus or bacteria. 

In hard-hit cities, like New York, the  proportion of people who have antibodies that might protect them from re-infection is still fairly low. In New York City, about 23 percent of people tested for antibodies have them. 

Now, scientists are starting to look more carefully at T cells, which, like antibodies, are part of the adaptive immune system and learn to identify and combat specific pathogens.

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33360404 0 image a 3 1600473599406

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33360400 8749589 image a 1 1600476908704

In addition to the US study, two of 10 people’s blood had T cells that reacted to SARS-CoV-2 in the Netherlands, as did about a third of samples tested in Germany and most of those tested in Singapore. 

They’re all small studies but point in the same direction.  

Although SARS-CoV-2 itself is new, it belongs a family of many related coronaviruses. 

Scientists think that some people may have developed T cells for other coronaviruses that are ‘cross-reactive’ with SARS-CoV-2 because they are sufficiently similar. 

If that’s the case, the world may be closer to herd immunity to the deadly infection than we think – but much research remains to be done before we can know if that is the  case.  

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PROFESSOR ROBERT THOMAS presents his top 10 food heroes to help cut your risk of cancer

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professor robert thomas presents his top 10 food heroes to help cut your risk of cancer

Most of us know it’s important for our health to eat a wide range of fruits, vegetables and herbs – and a great deal of focus has been placed on the important vitamins and minerals they supply.

Yet the crucial role played by phytochemicals — powerful chemical compounds contained in plants that play a vital part in reducing the risk of many chronic degenerative diseases — has often been overlooked.

Phytochemicals are amazing gifts from nature that give fruits and vegetables their diverse colours, tastes and aromas while playing an important role in supporting the immune system — and thereby reducing our risk of cancer, dementia, arthritis, heart disease, stroke, and macular degeneration (or age-related sight loss) as well as protecting our skin, enhancing mood and brain function and helping with muscle repair.

Most of us know it’s important for our health to eat a wide range of fruits, vegetables and herbs – and a great deal of focus has been placed on the important vitamins and minerals they supply [File photo]

Most of us know it’s important for our health to eat a wide range of fruits, vegetables and herbs – and a great deal of focus has been placed on the important vitamins and minerals they supply [File photo]

Most of us know it’s important for our health to eat a wide range of fruits, vegetables and herbs – and a great deal of focus has been placed on the important vitamins and minerals they supply [File photo]

They’re not just found in fruit and veg but also in legumes, nuts, spices and herbs.

The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) strongly recommends eating plenty of foods rich in phytochemicals, to protect ourselves from disease and help us recover from illness or surgery.

Researchers in Southern California found that women who consumed more than five portions of phytochemical-rich fruit and vegetables a day and participated in regular physical exercise had a significantly lower risk of breast cancer recurrence than those who stuck to the recommended ‘five-a-day’ guidelines.

Rather than patting ourselves on the back for eating a salad or a portion of broccoli every once in a while, it’s my belief we need to eat twice the recommended five-a-day of fruit, vegetables, legumes and herbs in order to get the nutrients we need.

What you eat can make a big difference to reducing your cancer risk, particularly if you harness the power of phytochemicals, so here’s my Top 10 prescription of foods you should eat one or more of EVERY DAY. More if you can. 

1) Cruciferous vegetables 

Our own research at the Primrose Unit at Bedford Hospital looking at the eating habits of 155,000 people over 12 years, showed a clear link between eating cruciferous vegetables and a lower risk of cancer.

This includes broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, bok choy, asparagus, watercress, Brussels sprouts, wasabi and horseradish.

For instance, broccoli protects us from harmful ingested toxins by helping to form the antioxidant enzyme GST, which is important in neutralising the harmful effects of pollutants, food additives and pesticides.

This group of vegetables is also rich in fibre, Vitamins C and K, minerals and other essential nutrients which provide multiple health benefits as well as being cancer-fighting.

Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, bok choy, asparagus, watercress, Brussels sprouts, wasabi and horseradish

Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, bok choy, asparagus, watercress, Brussels sprouts, wasabi and horseradish

Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, bok choy, asparagus, watercress, Brussels sprouts, wasabi and horseradish

2) Turmeric

Part of the ginger family, this spice is also rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals. A powerful weapon against chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, it works by enhancing the actions of antioxidant enzymes.

Consumption of turmeric is linked to a lower risk of cancer in several studies.

A powerful weapon against chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, it works by enhancing the actions of antioxidant enzymes

A powerful weapon against chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, it works by enhancing the actions of antioxidant enzymes

A powerful weapon against chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, it works by enhancing the actions of antioxidant enzymes

3) Pomegranates

Appropriately sometimes called the King of Fruits, pomegranate is packed with polyphenols which have direct anti-viral properties and help gut health and in doing so reduce your risk of several different cancers.

A supplement containing pomegranate, turmeric, tea and broccoli was found to slow the growth of prostate cancer in one of our most widely-reported studies, the Pomi-T trial (which we will return to in Tuesday’s paper when we look at vitamins and supplements). 

4) Pulses, seeds and whole grains

These are key sources of numerous phytochemicals — in particular lignans and isoflavones. These help suppress excessive levels of the hormone oestrogen which is why a high intake of lignans and isoflavones is linked to lower levels of hormone-sensitive cancers such as breast and ovarian cancer.

You can find them in flaxseeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin, sunflower and poppy seeds, pulses such as beans, lentils and peas, quinoa and buckwheat and unrefined whole grains including rye, oats and barley.

Lignans and isoflavones are particularly found in the outer layers of whole grains and seeds — which is why it’s important to eat unrefined grains and whole seeds that still have the husk intact.

5) Tomatoes

Rich in vitamins, minerals and many different phytochemicals — population studies show that people who eat more tomatoes have a lower cancer risk.

Some researchers have extracted one common phytochemical in tomatoes called lycopene for use in supplements in the hope that consuming concentrated levels would enhance the anti-cancer effect.

But several studies including a prestigious Cochrane review in 2011 found that isolating a single ingredient did not in fact lower the risk of prostate cancer. To me this was another example of how it’s actually the whole food with its combination of different elements that’s so important.

Fortunately, most of the phytochemicals in tomatoes are preserved in its processing so tinned tomatoes, pastes and pesto remain great sources.

Rich in vitamins, minerals and many different phytochemicals — population studies show that people who eat more tomatoes have a lower cancer risk [File photo]

Rich in vitamins, minerals and many different phytochemicals — population studies show that people who eat more tomatoes have a lower cancer risk [File photo]

Rich in vitamins, minerals and many different phytochemicals — population studies show that people who eat more tomatoes have a lower cancer risk [File photo]

6) Chilli peppers

Numerous studies show eating a diet that includes chillies can help to keep cancer at bay by encouraging an orderly programmed cell death of damaged cells which stops mutated cells from spreading.

Research has also shown it can help to prevent breast and bowel cancer, especially if combined with turmeric.

A large population study from China reported that people who ate spicy food containing chilli peppers once or twice a week had a mortality rate 10 per cent lower than those who ate it less frequently. 

Topical applications of creams containing chillis have shown that the capsaicinoid polyphenols it contains bring relief from the uncomfortable nerve damage in hands and feet associated with diabetes and also with some cancer chemo- therapy drugs.

7) Onions, garlic and leeks

Particularly rich in the polyphenols quercetin, gallic acid and kaempferol, regular intake of these vegetables is linked with a reduced risk of lung, oesophagus and pancreatic cancer, especially among smokers and alcoholics. 

These polyphenols are damaged by heat so it’s good to eat them raw wherever possible — add them to salads, for instance.

Particularly rich in the polyphenols quercetin, gallic acid and kaempferol, regular intake of these vegetables is linked with a reduced risk of lung, oesophagus and pancreatic cancer, especially among smokers and alcoholics

Particularly rich in the polyphenols quercetin, gallic acid and kaempferol, regular intake of these vegetables is linked with a reduced risk of lung, oesophagus and pancreatic cancer, especially among smokers and alcoholics

Particularly rich in the polyphenols quercetin, gallic acid and kaempferol, regular intake of these vegetables is linked with a reduced risk of lung, oesophagus and pancreatic cancer, especially among smokers and alcoholics

8) Citrus fruits and berries

Virtually all edible berries and fruits are excellent sources of vitamin C, fibre and minerals as well as many types of phytochemicals.

Fruit grown in the wild contain higher levels of phytochemicals than cultivated varieties because they have to fight to thrive — this process in turn causes them to be stronger and richer in phytochemicals.Wild berries also have the advantage of not being sprayed with any pesticides or herbicides.

9) Nuts

Tree nuts — walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews and pecans — plus peanuts (which are actually a type of legume) are packed with macro and micronutrients including compounds that work to prevent and delay age-related chronic conditions while also enhancing good gut bacteria.

Rich in good quality fatty acids — particularly 3 and 6 which are vital for regulating and supporting our immune system. As well as proteins, vitamin E and polyphenols, they offer protection against environmental carcinogens and UV radiation. 

Studies show that eating nuts lowers the risk of cancer — particularly prostate, breast and bowel. Eating a handful of these nuts every week could reduce the risk of bowel cancer relapse and death from bowel cancer by 40 per cent, according to dramatic research presented to the American Society of Clinical Oncology in 2017.

10) Beetroot

Packed with polyphenols, this is one of the few vegetables to contain betalains (the pigments that give it its red-violet colour).

They have been identified by several studies for their power in reducing excess inflammation and enhancing antioxidant formation — again important for reducing your cancer risk in general.

As well as it’s fibre content and store of complex carbohydrates and minerals, beetroot is packed with health-boosting compounds in the form of ascorbic acid, carotenoids, phenolic acids and flavonoids.

Packed with polyphenols, this is one of the few vegetables to contain betalains (the pigments that give it its red-violet colour)

Packed with polyphenols, this is one of the few vegetables to contain betalains (the pigments that give it its red-violet colour)

Packed with polyphenols, this is one of the few vegetables to contain betalains (the pigments that give it its red-violet colour)

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Cut your risk of cancer: Brush your teeth, don’t burn your toast, says PROFESSOR ROBERT THOMAS

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cut your risk of cancer brush your teeth dont burn your toast says professor robert thomas

The more I delve into research from around the world, and the more I listen to the experiences of patients, the more convinced I am of the importance of the way we choose to live our lives over the genes we were born with.

The meals we eat and snacks we munch, the hours we spend at our desks or in the garden and the exercise (or lack of) we take, over the years, has a profound effect on whether we go on to develop serious diseases — and if we do, how our bodies will fight back.

When I’m not in my clinic at Bedford and Addenbrooke’s hospitals (where I practice as a consultant oncologist and teach Cambridge University students), I am often to be found in a research clinic conducting trials into which foods or habits can most benefit patients — and everyone else.

The more I delve into research from around the world, and the more I listen to the experiences of patients, the more convinced I am of the importance of the way we choose to live our lives over the genes we were born with

The more I delve into research from around the world, and the more I listen to the experiences of patients, the more convinced I am of the importance of the way we choose to live our lives over the genes we were born with

The more I delve into research from around the world, and the more I listen to the experiences of patients, the more convinced I am of the importance of the way we choose to live our lives over the genes we were born with

I am not suggesting for a moment we abandon traditional medicine — I’ve seen too many referrals of patients who’ve refused potentially curative treatments because they opted to go it alone with lifestyle strategies only, with tragic results.

But it cannot be ignored that many diseases, including cancer, are caused or contributed to by daily lifestyle choices made over several years and cannot simply be put down to genes or bad luck.

This was illustrated by a fascinating study of the Japanese citizens who survived the initial blast of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs 75 years ago.

Because the radiation exposure caused considerable damage to their DNA, they all had an increased risk of cancer. Yet a study published 30 years later showed that the rate of cancer among survivors differed vastly, depending on whether they had good or poor diets.

Remarkably, the cancer incidence among survivors who did not smoke, ate little meat, exercised most days and consumed lots of fruit and vegetables was fairly similar to that of the general population — suggesting their healthy lifestyle had counteracted their risk from the bomb blast.

Those who smoked, on the other hand, were ten times more likely to develop lung and other cancers than smokers who had not been exposed to radiation.

Our susceptibility to disease is inherited from our parents, but numerous factors in the lives we choose to lead can damage our cells — including chemicals in the food and drink we consume and toxins such as pesticides and air pollutants. 

These chemicals either cause direct damage to our DNA or indirect damage by a process known as ‘oxidative stress’ — resulting in the build-up of harmful particles known as ‘free radicals’ in your body.

This can scramble the important order of genes in our DNA, messing up the body’s messaging system and leading cells to mutate when they divide and repair themselves. This in turn leads to cancer.

But the good news is that by choosing to avoid these hazards and by eating foods we know will protect our bodies, we can dramatically cut our risk of developing cancer. This is particularly true of vegetables, fruit, herbs and spices which are loaded with naturally-occurring compounds called phytochemicals, which have been shown to be formidable weapons in the fight against cancer and other diseases.

I’ve seen first hand the dramatic results a change in lifestyle can have on a patient’s outcome. Today, you’ll read the remarkable story of a 30-year-old woman who came to see me with so much cancer spread to her lungs and liver that they were failing.

Although she had intensive surgery and medical treatment, I’m convinced the reason she’s alive against the odds 13 years later is down to changing her diet.

Or there’s the 65-year-old man who came to see me about 12 years ago after being referred with advanced prostate cancer. He’d undergone treatment five years earlier but the cancer had returned and by the time he saw me, he’d exhausted all medical avenues. The cancer was now resistant to treatment.

Then aged 65, he had a life expectancy of three to six months – and the only option was to monitor his progress.

His wife, however, had other ideas. Having read about the power of broccoli and a diet rich in phytochemicals, she fed him a bowl of broccoli and onion soup every day.

To everyone’s joy and amazement, his tumour shrank consistently over the months and years that followed to the point at which it eventually disappeared.

I was staggered by this man’s results, which could not be attributed to any other change. If I hadn’t seen the scans and the blood tests for myself I would not have believed it.

Now, sadly, his cancer has returned again — but he’s had ten years free from the disease with a very good quality of life and is currently managing well.

He is on chemotherapy and other medication but both he and his wife are thankful for those extra happy, healthy years, which they attribute entirely to his new diet.

Although global life expectancy has doubled in the past 150 years, there has been an equally staggering rise in chronic diseases, the origins of which are strongly linked to lifestyle and diet.

The top five killers — cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease and dementia — are now responsible for 90 per cent of deaths in western countries.

Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support both predict that one in two people will develop cancer in their lifetime. But of these, around 40 per cent could have prevented the disease with a healthier lifestyle — and it’s not too late to change.

This link between cancer and the way we live inspired me 20 years ago to establish a lifestyle research facility, the Primrose Oncology Research Unit, with like-minded doctors at the universities of Bedford, Cambridge, Glasgow and Southern California.

Over the past two decades we have published more than 100 papers to help patients understand their options and learn how to reduce their risks of developing cancer and to mitigate the side-effects of their treatment.

And research is pointing to the importance of reducing the amount of meat and saturated fats you eat, cutting your intake of refined sugars and taking care with how you cook your food.

The most up-to-date data clearly underlines the massive health benefits of eating a diet of phytochemical-rich fruit and vegetables, gut-friendly fibre and probiotics (the live micro organisms found in plants and fermented foods that boost your vital colony of ‘good’ gut bacteria).

Healthy fats and plant proteins are also important for optimum health along with regular exercise and good quality sleep; these all combine to help your body’s natural defences fight off cancer.

That’s why I am so keen to share my lifetime’s work in my latest book How To Live — and in this exclusive Daily Mail series of extracts, starting today and continuing next week, I will suggest practical ways based on the latest science to help you reduce your risk of cancer and other diseases by protecting your DNA and boosting your immune system.

Don’t burn toast and swap your jam for avocado: My ten surprising tips for a longer life

Life is made up of little decisions — and many of them are made without stopping to think. 

But my lifetime’s experience as a senior oncologist has taught me that where cancer’s concerned your risk and your outcome can ultimately depend on how they all add up over time. 

And the unlikeliest things can make a big difference — as these strange, but true facts demonstrate… 

1)  Did you burn your breakfast toast by mistake this morning?

It’s easily done, and if you were in a rush you possibly just scraped off the worst black bits and carried on.

It won’t have tasted all that good, but I bet it never occurred to you that it might also increase your cancer risk.

Well, I’m afraid that from an oncologist’s point of view, burnt toast is actually a no-no. This is because grilling or baking starchy or sugary foods (such as bread) at high temperatures produces toxic compounds called acrylamides which can damage your DNA and put a big strain on your immune system over time. And, as a rule of thumb, the darker brown they are, the more acrylamides they contain.

While one piece of burnt toast won’t matter, consistently eating chargrilled or baked starchy foods over time will certainly help to increase your cancer risk.

You also need to swap your morning jam (full of sugar which increases your cancer risk) and instead mash on avocado which is packed with healthy fats. You’ll find it’s more filling, too.

Did you burn your breakfast toast by mistake this morning? It’s easily done, and if you were in a rush you possibly just scraped off the worst black bits and carried on

Did you burn your breakfast toast by mistake this morning? It’s easily done, and if you were in a rush you possibly just scraped off the worst black bits and carried on

Did you burn your breakfast toast by mistake this morning? It’s easily done, and if you were in a rush you possibly just scraped off the worst black bits and carried on

2) Tempted to add a punnet of blackberries to your weekly shop?

They are in season but please consider heading to the hedgerows for a bowl of blackberries instead of buying them in a shop. 

Although the berries are full of cancer-fighting polyphenols, (a type of naturally-occurring plant compound that scientists now know is a powerful weapon against carcinogens and damage to our DNA) cultivated berries have significantly lower quantities than those you pick in the wild. 

This is because plants have to ‘struggle’ to survive in the wild – and this makes them naturally develop higher quantities of phytochemicals than cultivated varieties.

Plus, they’re also less likely to have been exposed to pesticides or environmental toxins so long as you are not picking berries growing next to a busy road.

Tempted to add a punnet of blackberries to your weekly shop? They are in season but please consider heading to the hedgerows for a bowl of blackberries instead of buying them in a shop

Tempted to add a punnet of blackberries to your weekly shop? They are in season but please consider heading to the hedgerows for a bowl of blackberries instead of buying them in a shop

Tempted to add a punnet of blackberries to your weekly shop? They are in season but please consider heading to the hedgerows for a bowl of blackberries instead of buying them in a shop

3) Forget to brush your teeth last night?

I don’t want to sound like your parents nagging but this is something you should pay attention to – and not just because of fillings or bad breath. 

A review of over 60 studies from around the world links poor dental hygiene with cancers of the mouth and throat. 

And two other studies recently analysed more than 100 samples of healthy and cancerous bowel tissue and found that the DNA from bacteria found in dental cavities was also present in bowel cancer genes – but not in normal genes. 

This led researchers to believe that bacterial DNA from the mouth travels down through the body, where it interacts with the gut, causing cells there to become cancerous. 

Forget to brush your teeth last night? I don’t want to sound like your parents nagging but this is something you should pay attention to – and not just because of fillings or bad breath

Forget to brush your teeth last night? I don’t want to sound like your parents nagging but this is something you should pay attention to – and not just because of fillings or bad breath

Forget to brush your teeth last night? I don’t want to sound like your parents nagging but this is something you should pay attention to – and not just because of fillings or bad breath

4) Do you avoid the sun for fear of developing skin cancer?

It’s understandable, given all the coverage this gets, but I’m afraid you do need to head outdoors to protect yourself from the risk of kidney, bowel, prostate – and even, remarkably, skin – cancer. (Yes, you did read me correctly!)

This is because while you obviously need to take care not to get sunburnt, your body also depends upon sunlight to produce 80 per cent of its vital supplies of Vitamin D.

Numerous studies show Vitamin D has direct abilities to slow cancer growth and delay its spread; survivors of bowel cancer with regular exposure to sunlight and higher vitamin D levels were found to have a lower risk of relapsing for instance.

Most surprising of all was a study involving people who had been treated for melanoma skin cancers. As the risk of this disease increases with sunburn, these patients had been told to avoid the sun after their diagnosis.

However, those who ignored the advice and continued to have regular sun exposure were subsequently found to actually have a lower risk of the melanoma spreading to another part of the body.

Numerous studies show Vitamin D has direct abilities to slow cancer growth and delay its spread

Numerous studies show Vitamin D has direct abilities to slow cancer growth and delay its spread

Numerous studies show Vitamin D has direct abilities to slow cancer growth and delay its spread

5) Are you usually a frequent flyer?

Jet setters may have found themselves grounded recently thanks to the coronavirus pandemic – but that’s such not a bad thing from a cancer point of view.

That’s because the Earth’s atmosphere acts as a giant magnetic shield, blocking most cosmic radiation from reaching our planet – but aeroplane flying exposes you to higher levels and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) considers the neutrons in cosmic radiation we encounter at flight altitudes to be a human carcinogen.

Some studies suggest female flight attendants have an increased incidence of breast cancer because they are exposed to several times the radiation levels of ground staff. But this isn’t conclusive because they also suffer disruption to their circadian rhythm from jet-lag which can increase their risk too.

Frequent flyers are at a similar increased risk; a round trip from New York to Tokyo seven times a year might easily put a passenger above the allowable levels of exposure in medical facilities and nuclear power stations.

But the good news is you can offset your risk in other ways – such as loading up with phytochemical rich foods the day before you fly, avoiding carcinogenic foods on the flight and increasing your exercise levels after flying. (I’ll explain more about which foods to avoid to cut your cancer risk overleaf)

Are you usually a frequent flyer? Jet setters may have found themselves grounded recently thanks to the coronavirus pandemic - but that’s such not a bad thing from a cancer point of view

Are you usually a frequent flyer? Jet setters may have found themselves grounded recently thanks to the coronavirus pandemic - but that’s such not a bad thing from a cancer point of view

Are you usually a frequent flyer? Jet setters may have found themselves grounded recently thanks to the coronavirus pandemic – but that’s such not a bad thing from a cancer point of view

6) Feeling smug because you’ve hit your five-a-day?

It’s great that you’re enjoying your fruit and veg – but I believe we should actually be eating twice that amount, and numerous studies back this up.

It’s great that you’re enjoying your fruit and veg – but I believe we should actually be eating twice that amount, and numerous studies back this up

It’s great that you’re enjoying your fruit and veg – but I believe we should actually be eating twice that amount, and numerous studies back this up

It’s great that you’re enjoying your fruit and veg – but I believe we should actually be eating twice that amount, and numerous studies back this up

Recent research by scientists in Southern California found women who consumed more than five portions of phytochemical-rich fruit and vegetables a day and participated in regular physical exercise had a significantly lower risk of breast cancer recurrence than those who stuck to the recommended ‘five-a-day’ amount.

7) Are you a cheese lover? If so, you may be interested to know there are definite health benefits if you swap Cheddar for Stilton.

Although both are quite high in saturated fats and calories, blue-veined or aged cheeses such as Stilton have the definitive advantage of also being a good source of gut-friendly probiotic organisms, or bugs, that occur naturally in fruit and vegetables and some fermented foods and have a wide range of benefits for your gut health, reducing your chances of developing bowel problems including cancer. ..

Are you a cheese lover? If so, you may be interested to know there are definite health benefits if you swap Cheddar for Stilton

Are you a cheese lover? If so, you may be interested to know there are definite health benefits if you swap Cheddar for Stilton

Are you a cheese lover? If so, you may be interested to know there are definite health benefits if you swap Cheddar for Stilton

8) Do you shave your underarms in the shower? Many do and it’s an efficient way to take care of two jobs at once if you’re busy.

But if you’re a frequent shaver, do try to resist the temptation to put deodorant on immediately afterwards. 

Some studies have raised concerns about whether aluminium and parabens, commonly found in anti-perspirants, can penetrate the skin, contributing to breast cancer after they were found in post-mastectomy breast tissue. 

Manufacturers dispute this – and the evidence is not conclusive; more trials are needed.

Nonetheless I personally avoid using anti-perspirant most days.

8) Have you swapped potato crisps for ‘veggie’ alternatives?

You probably thought they would be healthier than regular ready-salted potato crisps but in cancer terms, I’m afraid they’re wrong.

Crisps in general contain high concentrations of acrylamides, those carcinogenic compounds produced by cooking starchy foods at high temperatures (as we saw earlier)

Unfortunately, fried root vegetables such as beetroot and carrot contain higher levels of sugar than potato crisps (and therefore higher levels of acrylamides). Some even have extra sugar added before they’re cooked. All of this puts them right up there with burnt toast.

You probably thought they would be healthier than regular ready-salted potato crisps but in cancer terms, I’m afraid they’re wrong

You probably thought they would be healthier than regular ready-salted potato crisps but in cancer terms, I’m afraid they’re wrong

You probably thought they would be healthier than regular ready-salted potato crisps but in cancer terms, I’m afraid they’re wrong

9) Are you always losing a battle against mess and dirt?

Many parents do – but please be reassured that from a cancer doctor’s point of view, a bit of dirt is very desirable. 

Mixing with other children and having pets around is also excellent for stimulating their immune systems and helping them to develop healthy gut bacteria. 

Summarising 30 years of research into the causes of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, the Institute of Cancer Research concluded that apart from genetic factors, the biggest cause was ‘over- clean’ kids.

From an oncologist’s view, I am now concerned that one unwanted result of the social isolation required to stamp out Covid may be an increase in leukaemia or even other cancers in the months or years to come…. 

Are you always losing a battle against mess and dirt? Many parents do – but please be reassured that from a cancer doctor’s point of view, a bit of dirt is very desirable [File photo]

Are you always losing a battle against mess and dirt? Many parents do – but please be reassured that from a cancer doctor’s point of view, a bit of dirt is very desirable [File photo]

Are you always losing a battle against mess and dirt? Many parents do – but please be reassured that from a cancer doctor’s point of view, a bit of dirt is very desirable [File photo]

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