Image for What went right this week: getting ahead of cancer, plus more

What went right this week: getting ahead of cancer, plus more

Preventative cancer treatments moved a step closer, bison helped to fix the climate, and TikTok got teens reading, plus more good news

Preventative cancer treatments moved a step closer, bison helped to fix the climate, and TikTok got teens reading, plus more good news

This week’s good news roundup

Preventative cancer treatments moved a step closer

What if you could intercept cancer before it develops? That’s the hope after research showed that proteins associated with cancer can appear in people’s blood more than seven years before they are diagnosed. 

Academics at the University of Oxford, England, identified 618 proteins linked to 19 different types of cancer – including 107 proteins in people whose blood was collected at least seven years before they were diagnosed. 

The findings suggest that the proteins could be involved at the earliest stages of cancer. “This research brings us closer to being able to prevent cancer with targeted drugs – once thought impossible but now much more attainable,” said Dr Karl Smith-Byrne, senior molecular epidemiologist at Oxford Population Health, a department of the University of Oxford. 

His team will now try to learn more about the roles these proteins play in cancer development, how tests might be able to spot them, and which drugs can stop them driving cancer.

Though genetics can play a role in the development of cancer, lifestyle choices are a big factor. Quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, and exercising more can all reduce your cancer risk. 

Image: National Cancer Institute/Unsplash

Speaking of defeating cancer...

Giving teenage girls the HPV vaccine is cutting cases of cervical cancer by 90%, figures for England show.

Historically, cervical cancer impacted deprived groups more than any other cancer, and there was concern that HPV vaccination may not reach those at the greatest risk. But a new study published in the British Medical Journal shows that isn’t the case. 

“This study captures the huge success of the school-based vaccination programme in helping to close these gaps and reach people from even the most deprived communities,” said lead author Prof Peter Sasieni, from Queen Mary University of London. 

“In the UK, the elimination of cervical cancer as a public health problem in our lifetime is possible with continued action to improve access to vaccination and screening for all.”

Image: Polina Tankilevitch/Pexels

Romania’s rewilded bison hailed ‘climate heroes’

A herd of reintroduced bison in Romania’s Tarcu Mountains are drawing down 2m tonnes of carbon per year – equivalent to taking around 1.8m cars off the road.

That’s according to modelling by Yale School of the Environment, US, whose research is the latest to highlight the potential of rewilding to fix the climate.

Through grazing and browsing, bison create conditions for a range of carbon-sequestering plant and animal species to thrive. Yale researchers used their model to assess the climate impact of 170 bison, which were reintroduced to the Tarcu Mountains. They estimated that the animals sequester around 2m tonnes of carbon per year. 

“Allowing a comeback of nature will significantly increase the drawdown of carbon from the atmosphere while bringing back functional ecosystems,” said Karl Wagner, MD of the Global Rewilding Alliance, which supported the research. “Why look for expensive, unproven technological approaches when a natural and cost-effective solution is at hand?”

Image: Andrei.Andreea.Georgiana/Wikimedia Commons

Good news
India is finally weaning itself off coal

India has been something of a laggard in the race to quit coal, but that could finally be changing. 

Data published this week showed that for the first time since the 1960s, coal accounted for less than half of India’s electricity supply in the first three months of 2024.

“The decline mirrors a global trend, with demand for coal in G7 countries plumbing record lows in 2023, levels not seen since 1900,” said the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), which led the research. 

India has shot up to third place in the world’s solar power generation rankings, behind only China and the US, according to recent research. Still, with nearly half of its electricity coming from coal, there’s a way to go. 

Image: Sanket Shah

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Good news
TikTok to take books to disadvantaged areas

Collective wisdom has it that social media shortens our attention spans. But research shows that the video sharing platform TikTok has inspired a new generation of young people to pick up a book.

Now, the social media giant is partnering with the UK’s National Literary Trust (NLT) to place bookshelves in areas identified as lacking in literary provision. 

Twenty ‘BookTok Bookshelves’ will be placed in youth clubs and community centres in Birmingham, Blackpool, Bradford, Doncaster, Manchester, Middlesborough, Newcastle, Nottingham, Peterborough, Stoke and Swindon. Books will be paid for by TikTok and chosen by volunteers at the NLT, whose research shows that 9% of people aged 5-18 (8.6%) don’t have a book of their own at home.

“Everyone should have access to the books that they love,” TikTok said in a statement. “We are thrilled to be widening access to books and encouraging an enjoyment of reading with the National Literacy Trust.” 

Image: Seven Shooter

Good news
Gender diverse theatres linked to better outcomes

Patients are more likely to have better outcomes from operations if at least a third of the surgical team are women, a major study has found. 

Researchers at the University of Toronto, Canada, analysed more than 700,000 elective operations in the province of Ontario between 2009 and 2019. 

Hospital teams comprising more than 35% female surgeons and anaesthesiologists had better postoperative outcomes, the study found. Operations in such hospitals were linked with a 3% reduction in postoperative illness within three months.

“Increasing operating room teams’ sex diversity is not a question of representation or social justice, but an important part of optimising performance,” researchers concluded. 

“Healthcare institutions should intentionally foster sex diversity in operating room teams to potentially reduce major morbidity, which, in turn, can enhance patient satisfaction and reduce costs.”

Image: Anna Shvets/Unsplash

Dutch students to build their own housing

An acute housing crisis has become a familiar problem in many cities, not least Amsterdam, where a group of students have come up with a novel solution: build their own affordable housing project. 

De Torteltuin – meaning ‘turtle garden’ – has cleared several important hurdles lately. Having raised almost enough money to cover construction costs, the €12m (£10.3m) project has now been approved by the municipality and allocated land. 

The plan is to construct 40 apartments, which will be rented out in perpetuity at a fair price to local people, with preference given to vulnerable groups. The timber block will be constructed on an artificial island in IJmeer lake, approximately 20 minutes from the city centre by public transport.

De Torteltuin has been financed by a mixture of loans, crowdfunding and bond issues. A design is due to be completed by the end of the year, with boots going on the ground early 2025. Read more here.

Related: Seven solutions to ease the UK housing crisis

Image: Natrufied Architecture

Free public transport got a French city moving

Montpellier’s experiment with free public transport appears to be getting people moving sustainably.  

Journeys made on trams and buses shot up by 24% in the first three months of 2024, compared with the same period in 2019, data shows. 

The city’s free public transport scheme is available only to residents. According to Euro News, it is being funded by ‘mobility payments’ from companies with more than 11 employees, plus ticket sales from non-residents. 

The idea has precedent: Luxembourg introduced free public transport to all in 2020. Others are taking note: Germany, France and Portugal are among the nations introducing cheap monthly tickets for unlimited train travel. 

Image: Julien Daga/Unsplash

Good news
Meanwhile, in Paris...

The French capital’s long love affair with la voiture appears to be over: bikes are now more popular than cars in the inner city.

Research by the urban planning agency Institut Paris Region found that Parisians now use bicycles for 11.2% of trips inside the city centre (up from 3% in 2010), while cars are used for just 4.3% of journeys. In the outer suburbs, cars are still king of the road. 

Paris’ two-wheeled revolution follows a major programme of cycle lane building in the city centre.  

Image: Eddie Junior

Positive News readers shared mental health tips

How do you cope during life’s inevitable troughs? That’s what we asked Positive News readers for an article to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week.

As ever, we were inundated with considered responses. Here are your tips for staying strong during a crisis.

Image: Thought Catalog
Main image: Jacek Dylag

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