Obesity to eclipse smoking as biggest cause of cancer in UK women by 2043

Experts want action to tackle ‘huge public health threat’ after new projections

Obesity is on track to overtake smoking as the single biggest cause of preventable cancer in British women within 25 years, according to a Cancer Research UK report.

The charity expects that within 17 years around 23,000 cases of cancers in women (9% of the total) could be caused by excess weight and about 25,000 (10%) by smoking.

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Average Briton spends 26 days a year watching on-demand TV

Adults spend eight times longer watching Netflix and iPlayer than exercising, survey reveals

UK adults spend an average of 12 hours a week watching on-demand TV, around eight times longer than they spend exercising, a survey has found.

The survey also found that the average adult spend 17 hours using a smartphone or tablet and 12 hours using social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Seven ways to overcome loneliness

The evidence shows that being lonely is bad for your physical and mental health. But, with support from groups and specialists – and even the internet – you needn’t tackle it on your own

According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, a commission originally set up by MP Jo Cox in 2016, loneliness can be as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It is also associated with increased risk of heart disease, stroke and blood pressure, as well as dementia – one study cited by the campaign found that lonely people “have a 64% increased chance of developing clinical dementia”. Having healthy social networks, on the other hand, can decrease risk of mortality and of developing diseases, as well as helping people recover when they are ill – and with 9 million adults describing themselves as “often or always lonely”, it is clear that loneliness has become such a pressing public health concern. Recognising the impact loneliness could have on you is the first step to tackling it.

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Women, not politicians, should control their bodies | Kenan Malik

Labour must think again on early screening in pregnancy

The Labour party is proposing to ban parents from discovering the sex of an unborn child early in pregnancy for fear that it could lead to selective abortion.

Non-invasive screenings are now being offered at nine to 10 weeks into a pregnancy, to allow parents to discover whether a foetus has Down’s syndrome or other genetic conditions. Naz Shah, shadow women and equalities minister, told the Victoria Derbyshire show that the test could be used, particularly within Asian communities, to selectively abort girls.

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Health visitors struggling with ‘dangerously high’ caseloads

Some are responsible for up to 830 children – when the safe limit is 250, study warns

Health visitors are struggling to care for families properly because they have “dangerously high” workloads in which some are looking after as many as 829 children, a study shows.

Falling numbers of health visitors mean that in most parts of England they are now looking after more – often many more – under-fives than the recommended maximum 250.

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A pint of mindful, please: festival makes it cool to be teetotal in Glasgow

As public health concerns mount, Scotland’s first major alcohol-free festival aims to challenge stereotypes

It has all the offerings of a typical drinks festival: beer on tap, live music, cocktail masterclasses and competitions to find the best bartender. But the mindful drinking festival coming to Glasgow next month is missing one key ingredient: alcohol.

Billed as Scotland’s first alcohol-free drinks festival, the event is organised by Club Soda, a mindful drinking movement with 23,000 members across the UK, and aims to meet growing demand from pubs and bars keen to learn more about alternatives amid rising concern about the health risks of alcohol abuse.

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NHS sued for failure to help transgender patients with fertility

Equality watchdog insists on the right to start a family later in life

NHS England is to be taken to court by the UK’s equality watchdog for failing to offer fertility services to transgender patients.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission will launch a high-profile judicial review action, a legal manoeuvre that is likely to prove controversial at a time when the NHS is struggling to balance budgets and provide core services.

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Blood, spit and swabs: can you trust home medical-testing kits?

Is posting off your bodily fluids to a DIY health-testing company the future of healthcare or just too much information?

On a dark February morning, I wake grainy with sleep and head to the kitchen. Before making toast or coffee, I unscrew the cap from a tiny test tube and spit into it. Over and over, but it’s surprisingly difficult to fill up a whole vial. It takes 10 minutes before my frothy deposit reaches the marked minimum line.

My housemate sips her coffee. “Are you ill?” she asks.

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‘Instead of a scar, I had a piece of art’: women on their post-mastectomy tattoos

Seven women tell Gem Fletcher why getting inked after breast cancer made them feel whole again

I found a hardening in my breast in 2005, and although my GP wasn’t concerned, he sent me to get it checked out. It was a total shock when I found out I had stage 2 breast cancer. I went for the mastectomy, because I thought it gave me a better chance; and I had a reconstruction because I thought it would be less traumatic to wake up with two breasts.

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Invisible killer: how one girl’s tragic death could change the air pollution story

In a far-reaching human rights case, Ella Kissi-Debrah could become the first person to have toxic air given as their cause of death – and finally make this silent killer visible

From a tiny office on the top floor of the old town hall in Catford, south-east London, Rosamund Kissi-Debrah is leading a campaign to push air pollution on to the political agenda as never before. It has been claimed for years that pollution caused by motor vehicles, especially diesel cars, buses and lorries, is a killer, with talk of tens of thousands of premature deaths. But the number was always abstract, the identities of the dead unknown. Now, for the first time, campaigners have the name of a young victim they say died as a direct result of air pollution: Ella Roberta Kissi-Debrah, Rosamund’s daughter, and if they can prove it they believe an invisible killer will become all too real.

Ella, who suffered from severe asthma, died in 2013 at the age of nine. She had been suffering asthma-related seizures like the one which killed her for three years. Kissi-Debrah says her daughter, who grew up and went to school close to the busy South Circular Road in Lewisham, had cough syncope – a condition usually associated with long-distance lorry drivers who’d been driving for decades. “I couldn’t work out why a nine-year-old child should have that,” she tells me.

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‘I had cancer – but my insurer tried to wriggle out of paying’

Sheila Hastings took out critical illness cover, but faced a fight over her £280,000 claim

When Sheila Hastings* heard just days after her daughter’s wedding that she had an “aggressive” form of kidney cancer and major surgery was inevitable, she was comforted that at least she had a “critical illness” insurance policy taken out with Zurich eight years earlier.

These policies are supposed to pay out a lump sum if you are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness such as cancer or heart disease. Typically, they cost about £100 a month for each £100,000 of cover if taken out by someone in their late 40s or early 50s. In Sheila Hastings’ case, her policy would pay out £279,224 on diagnosis.

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‘Mental illness swam in my genes’: why I was born to be a psychiatrist

Edward Hallowell was conceived only because his father tried to kill his mother. His work helps make sense of his ‘crazy family’

Edward Hallowell was conceived thanks to an administrative error and his father’s plan to kill his mother. On the day in question, Hallowell’s father, Ben, hospitalised with schizophrenia (later identified correctly as bipolar disorder), was mistakenly allowed out on leave, and his intention – in the depths of a psychotic rage – had been to kill his wife, Dorothy. She persuaded him to change course, resulting in the conception of Edward. Ben was later collected, naked and shooting crows in a snowy cornfield, by the police.

And this is why today, after nearly 40 years as a psychiatrist, Edward Hallowell knows exactly why he chose his profession. “Because I come from a crazy family,” he says. It’s the same answer he gave when the question was posed at his first job interview (it was not among the list of expected answers).

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Damien Whitmore: I would find Mum crying and repeating: ‘I don’t know who I am’

After a 25-year career in the arts, I was still somehow unsatisfied. Then, when my mother’s Alzheimer’s became so acute that she could no longer cope alone, I moved in with her

In May 2018, I moved from Shoreditch, east London, to Kingfisher Cottage on the southern side of the Isle of Wight to take care of my 89-year-old mother, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s. She had reached a stage where she couldn’t live alone any more nor could she rely solely on the kindness and support of neighbours. Up until then, my brother had taken care of Mum from a distance, but the time had come for someone to move in and take care of her, and my brother and I decided that I was going to do it. While the decision came from deep within and felt right, I was dreading moving from hip and trendy east London to the Isle of Wight and dealing with my mother. We hadn’t always had the easiest of relationships. There was a residue of tension between us since my parents’ divorce when I was 14. And I didn’t know anything about caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. I didn’t think I could handle living in a small coastal village. At the same time, I was going through my own mini crisis – I had chronic lower-back pain, I was unsure of what I wanted to do with my life, where I wanted to live, what I was interested in, who I wanted to be. My own mind was confused. In a weird way, my mother and I were going through a similar thing, we were both stuck in our heads. I had no idea that through the course of the summer we were going to help and heal each other.

I could make this decision to live with Mum because I was in the middle of a career break after spending 25-years working for some of the world’s greatest museums. After eight years working as the Tate gallery’s communications director, I oversaw the total rebrand of Tate and directed the hugely successful launch of Tate Modern in 2000. After this, I moved to the V&A where, working with a group of amazing colleagues, we transformed the museum and produced exhibitions including David Bowie Is, Hollywood Costume, Art Deco and placed the V&A at the epicentre for fashion globally. I then went to work on the creation of the Prada Foundation in Milan, before moving to New York to rebrand and reposition Phillips Art auctioneers as the world’s leader for contemporary art and design. I was awarded the Legion d’Honneur, the highest French order of merit for military and civil merits, in 2008. My work and career meant absolutely everything to me, but although I loved everything I did, something was missing for me, which is why I had decided to have a year off and take stock of my life.

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Tobacco display ban linked to drop in children buying cigarettes in shops

First analysis of policy’s effects shows 17% fall after tobacco products taken off display

The removal of tobacco product displays may have led to a 17% drop in the proportion of children buying cigarettes in shops, a study suggests.

The Imperial College London research is the first analysis of the 2015 tobacco display ban in England. The law made it illegal to display tobacco products in shops and businesses.

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5% of all deaths due to alcohol, WHO says

Report finds 13.5% of deaths among people in their 20s are linked to booze

Alcohol is responsible for more than 5% of all deaths worldwide, accounting for the demise of around 3 million people a year, new figures have revealed.

The data, part of a report from the World Health Organization, shows that about 2.3 million of those deaths in 2016 were among men, and that almost 29% of all alcohol-caused deaths were down to injuries – including traffic accidents and suicide.

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Silent Sam: the mute punk singer – video

Sam is a 27 year old who is many things; a music teaching, sovereign ring wearing, chanting Buddhist. Not to mention the lead singer of an up and coming punk band. He’s also mute...at least for most of the time. After two unsuccessful vocal chord operations, Sam spends most of his time in pain and on voice rest. Yet, by communicating silently through writing notes, mouthing words and blowing kisses (one for yes and two for no), he still somehow manages to be the chattiest person in the room. But by going against expert advice and pursuing a career in singing, Sam risks losing his voice forever. Right at a time when his band his gaining momentum and due to go on tour, and his love affair with girlfriend Tilly is becoming more serious.

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Global push to cut deaths from cancer and heart disease wildly off course

Lack of progress in reducing early deaths from chronic diseases could cause majority of UN member states to miss 2030 deadline

More than half of all countries will not meet global targets to cut deaths from cancer, heart disease and other chronic conditions, according to a report in the Lancet.

In 2015, world leaders pledged to cut deaths from chronic disease among 30- to 70-year-olds by a third as part of the sustainable development goals. However, the latest figures show that progress on tackling the issue has so far has been too slow to meet the 2030 deadline for achieving the target.

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Fighting the world’s deadliest infectious disease: how to tackle TB

Experts say global action to combat TB, which causes almost two million deaths a year, is inadequate. What must change?

It is the world’s deadliest infectious disease, killing almost 2 million people a year – more than HIV and malaria combined – but the fight against tuberculosis (TB) is still severely underfunded and neglected by politicians and decision-makers, experts warn.

TB is both preventable and curable, but remains a significant public health risk and caused more than 10 million people to fall ill in 2016. This month, the United Nations general assembly will hold the first high-level meeting on the TB crisis, putting a spotlight on the disease 25 years after it was declared a global emergency. Ahead of the event, the Guardian held a roundtable discussion with experts in the field, chaired by health editor Sarah Boseley and supported by the Stop TB Partnership, to discuss the barriers to fighting the disease.

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Solving the genome puzzle

With advances in gene technology helping to diagnose very rare diseases, has the new era of personalised medicine finally arrived?

Evie Walker sits on her mother’s lap, playing a game she never grows tired of: turning her mother’s hand over and over, stroking and examining it. When she takes a break and looks around, it is with the open-mouthed look of curiosity and awe that you see in many infants. Evie’s vocabulary currently consists of a repertoire of squawks and “mmm” sounds. In the past few months, she has begun to stand unaided for short periods – even taking a few steps in her walking frame – progress that fills her parents with immeasurable pride, not to mention hope for the future.

Despite her baby-like demeanour, Evie is eight years old. She has Pura syndrome, a vanishingly rare developmental disorder that didn’t officially exist until four years ago. Developmental disorders affect children’s normal mental or physical development. Before she was diagnosed, all Evie’s parents knew was that she suffered from “global developmental delay”: a vague umbrella term for a set of symptoms with myriad potential causes – some, but not all of them, associated with a heartbreakingly poor prognosis.

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