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Health

Dechox yourself

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HUNDREDS and thousands of chocoholic residents in Wales say they would find it easier to give up sex, coffee and social media than chocolate, according to a new British Heart Foundation (BHF) survey.

The figures, which reveal the country’s unhealthy obsession with chocolate, show that a staggering one in six respondents would find it easier to give up sex (15%) and a fifth would rather kick their coffee habit (18%) than chocolate. If these results were repeated countrywide, around 380,000 adults would find it easier to give up sex and 460,000 would rather ditch caffeine than chocolate.

Around a quarter polled (around 590,000 adults) would rather give up social media or nights in, watching their favourite shows on Netflix (23%).

The figures have been released on the eve of the BHF’s Dechox campaign – the charity’s annual challenge to get people to give up chocolate for the month of February to raise funds for the BHF’s life-saving research.

Wales’ infatuation with chocolate is clear to see and it seems that many can’t get the sweet stuff off their mind. On average, people think about chocolate three times a day – the equivalent of 1,095 times a year.

This leads to the average person eating chocolate five times a week, consuming around 180g – the equivalent of four small chocolate bars. In total, the adult population in Wales consumes an estimated 463 tonnes of chocolate a week – the same weight as 37 double-decker buses.

For many people, the extent of their love for chocolate leads to them keeping it hush-hush by indulging away from prying eyes. Around a third of people (31%) have admitted to waking up in the middle of the night and eating chocolate, and over two-fifths of the population in Wales have waited until a partner, friend or family member has left the room before tucking into their chocolate treats (42%).

People just can’t seem to live without chocolate, with only one in six people (15%) previously attempting to erase chocolate from their diet. This February, the BHF is encouraging everyone to put their will power to the test by giving up chocolate for the entire month to help raise money for life-saving research into heart and circulatory diseases.

Adam Fletcher, Head of BHF Cymru, said: “Our love of chocolate is plain to see and we are undoubtedly infatuated with the sweet stuff. From the moment we wake up to go to sleep, this survey reveals the lengths people will go to so they don’t have to part with their chocolate.

“By challenging yourself to a Dechox this February, you will be able to put your will power to the test whilst raising funds for our vital research. Ditching the chocolate for 28 days will leave you feeling like you’ve conquered something huge and the money you raise will help fund breakthroughs to help beat heart and circulatory diseases for good.”

Send chocolate packing and challenge yourself to a Dechox this February. Give up chocolate for a month, and raise funds for BHF’s life-saving research.

Find out more at: www.bhf.org.uk/dechox

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Welsh Rugby star Ryan Jones backs NSPCC Cymru

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A NEW NSPCC Cymru/Wales service that aims to help children and young people keep safe in their digital worlds and prevent online sexual abuse, has been praised by former Welsh Rugby captain, Ryan Jones, during a visit to the children’s charity’s base in Swansea.

During a tour of the service centre on Friday 29 November, the Wales Rugby legend met with NSPCC Cymru/Wales service practitioners who deliver direct work with local children and their families.

They shared with him their work, through their Protect and Respect service, to support children and young people who may be experiencing exploitation, as well as how they are helping parents who are at risk of mild to moderate anxiety and depression during pregnancy with their preventative mental-health service, Pregnancy in Mind.

A more recent service to be offered to children and young people in South Wales is In Ctrl, a group work programme for children and young people that aims to help them stay safe online.

Ryan said: “It’s been really interesting to find out more about the direct services the NSPCC delivers in South Wales, and how their prevention work with local schools through the In Ctrl service is helping to keep children and young people safe both on and offline.

“It’s reassuring to know that children are being empowered to ask themselves those really important questions when they go online, and increase their confidence in knowing what to do or who to speak to if they come across something that makes them feel uncomfortable.”

NSPCC Cymru/Wales Service Centre Manager in Swansea, Tracey Holdsworth added: “We were thrilled to be able to welcome Ryan to our service centre, thank him for all of his support, and share the work we are doing to help local children and their families.

“Ryan took a particular interest in our InCtrl programme that helps to prevent abuse online. In taking a trauma informed approach, it is designed to offer a safe space to children, young people and their parents to promote learning, build understanding of risk and increase resilience, in their online and offline worlds.

“Our practitioners visit local primary and secondary schools working with pupils who are aged between 9 and 13, exploring issues such as healthy relationships and friendships online, and enabling them to develop skills that will help protect them from grooming and exploitation.”

The work compliments the work of the charity’s Schools Service team in Wales, that visits local primary schools delivering free Speak out Stay safe assemblies and workshops that help children know about the different types of abuse, how to recognise the signs, and explore trusted adults they can speak to if they ever have a worry or concern.

In the 2018/19 academic year trained staff and volunteers delivered the free safeguarding sessions at 12 primary schools in Swansea reaching more than 3,000 children.

Ryan added: “I have attended a Speak out Stay safe assembly, and they are a great way to ensure children with a worry understand they can speak to Childline or a trusted adult about it and know they will be listened to.

“The InCtrl service offered by the NSPCC gives children the confidence to speak out if they come across something that concerns them online – and that’s so important.

“It’s great that parents are getting involved too. Giving them a safe space to talk, and helping them understand the issues facing their children online can help them feel assured talking to their child about their online use and how to keep them safe online.”

Online sexual abuse can happen anywhere that allows digital communication, such as social networks, text messages and messaging apps, email, online chats, voice chat in games and comments on live streaming apps.

Tracey added: “Too many children contact Childline not knowing where to turn having been exploited online. We want children and young people to have a happier and safer life, knowing that whenever they talk to a trusted adult, in school or at home, their concerns will be addressed.

“InCtrl is for children who might be going through lots of exciting changes – moving up to secondary school, getting a first mobile device, and using social media profiles for the first time.

“As exciting as all this can be, it can also be hard to know what to do sometimes and for some children, things can easily feel quickly out of their control, especially if they have had a worrying online experience.”

In Ctrl is carried out mainly in groups and covers themes such as healthy relationships, boundaries, pressure and expectation online, self-care, body image, pornography, and sexting. There is also an option for one-to-one work too, if needed, and anyone wanting to find out more about the service can contact the NSPCC in Swansea on 01792 456545 or SwanseaServiceCentre@nspcc.org.uk. The service is also offered out of the charity’s Cardiff base – CardiffServiceCentre@nspcc.org.uk or 02920 108080.

Children can contact Childline for free 24/7, 365 days a year on 0800 1111 or childline.org.uk.

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Health

Research solves pancreatic cancer mystery

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A NEW technique to study tissue samples in 3D has revealed that pancreatic cancers can start and grow in two distinct ways, solving a decades-old mystery of how tumours form.

The new method could help researchers to get more information from tissue biopsies and may lead to improved treatments for pancreatic cancers. The technique was developed by scientists at the Francis Crick Institute, and their results are published in Nature. The work was supported by the European Research Council and core funding from the MRC (one of the Crick’s founding partners).

The pancreas is a crucial organ that sits behind our stomach and plays a key role in digestion. It relies on a network of ducts linking it to other digestive organs, and the most common pancreatic cancers are found in the ducts. However, until now it has only been possible to see 2D slices of these ductal cancers, which contained an unexplained variety of abnormal shapes.

“To investigate the origins of pancreatic cancer, we spent six years developing a new method to analyse cancer biopsies in three dimensions,” explains Dr Hendrik Messal from the Francis Crick Institute, co-lead author of the research paper. “This technique revealed that cancers develop in the duct walls and either grow inwards or outwards depending on the size of the duct. This explains the mysterious shape differences that we’ve been seeing in 2D slices for decades.”

By analysing developing cancers in 3D, the team defined two distinct types of cancer formation: ‘endophytic’ tumours which grow inwards and ‘exophytic’ tumours which grow outwards. To find out what makes cancer cells grow in a particular way, they analysed detailed 3D images and worked with biophysicists at the Crick who created sophisticated computer models.

“We made a simulation of the ducts, describing individual cell geometry to understand tissue shape,” explains biophysicist Dr Silvanus Alt, co-lead author of the paper. “The model and experimental results both confirmed that cancer grew outwards when the diameter of the duct was less than approximately 20 micrometres, around a fiftieth of a millimetre.”

The work was made possible by an interdisciplinary collaboration between two research groups at the Crick, led by Dr Axel Behrens and Dr Guillaume Salbreux. Axel’s group works on stem cells and pancreatic cancer, while Guillaume focuses on using physics to understand biological processes.

“I think we first started discussing this when we bumped into each other in the bike shed,” says Axel. “It’s amazing what can come out of a chance encounter, we now have a patented technique to see the three-dimensional shapes of cancers and a biophysical understanding of the emergence of tumours. Now that we know pancreatic cancer can develop in these two different ways, we can start looking at whether one is likely to be more aggressive or spread in a different way. Many years from now, this could lead to improved diagnostic or treatment options.”

The team also applied the technique to other organs and found that cancers in the airways of the lungs and ducts in the liver behave in the same way. This shows that the mechanism the teams discovered is not specific to the pancreas and also applies to other cancers.

“Both the data and our models indicate that the two different mechanisms of tumour growth are purely down to the innate physics of the system,” explains Dr Guillaume Salbreux. “Like most cancers, ductal pancreatic cancer starts with a single defective cell that starts dividing. We found that very quickly, when there are only a few cells, the tumour has already started to grow either inwards or outwards depending on duct diameter. Defining this fundamental process will help us to better understand how cancer grows in many places across the body.”

Dr Mariana Delfino-Machin, Programme Manager for Cancer at the MRC, said: “Pancreatic cancer remains a very difficult disease to treat but understanding that it can grow in different ways will inform the development of more accurate treatments in the future.

“These findings came about thanks to researchers working in very different fields coming together to successfully tackle the same problem.”

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Health

Important step for Welsh cancer treatment

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THE FIRST NHS Wales cancer patient to receive proton beam therapy in Wales has started treatment at the Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales in Newport.

The Newport centre is approved by the Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee (WHSSC) to provide high energy proton beam therapy to adult patients, referred from the NHS in south Wales.

Professor Roger Taylor, Senior Clinical Advisor and Consultant Clinical Oncologist at the Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales, said: “The availability of proton beam therapy at a local clinic is an important step forward in cancer care in the UK and we are pleased to be able to provide treatment for this young man.

“Whilst proton therapy is not a panacea for all types of cancer, we have seen where it can be beneficial in treating a range of tumours. Working with the NHS in Wales means that adult patients have an option to be treated closer to home.”

Jamie Powell, Centre Manager at the Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales, said: “Providing access to the Rutherford Cancer Centres for NHS patients is something we have been working towards and we are pleased to announce this on World Cancer Day. Our centre and services in Newport are supported by NHS Wales clinical, hospital and research facilities and we look forward to continuing to provide excellent care in a high-quality and technologically advanced environment.”

The Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales was the first clinic in the UK to provide high energy proton beam therapy and treated the first non-NHS patient with high energy proton beam therapy in the UK in April of last year.

Rupert Lowe, chairman of Proton Partners International, said: “As someone who had to travel abroad to receive proton beam therapy, I am delighted to be reporting on World Cancer Day today that the situation is changing at last in the UK.

“We were extremely proud to treat the first proton beam therapy patient in the UK last April and scores more have benefited from this treatment without having to travel abroad. We are also pleased to see the development of proton beam therapy facilities within the NHS.

“We are delighted to have been commissioned by health commissioners in Wales to treat adult NHS patients with proton beam therapy and are very proud that our first NHS patient began treatment today.

“The UK Government recently set out an ambitious 10-year plan for the NHS which includes major commitments to tackling cancer. We firmly believe that given the magnitude of the challenge, a collaborative approach among healthcare providers will achieve the best results for patients.”

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