HPV vaccine offered to teenage boys in England

The department of Health and Social Care has announced that adolescent boys, aged between 12 and 13, will be offered  a vaccination against the cancer-causing human papilloma virus (HPV).

HPV has emerged as the leading cause of throat cancers and is linked to 5% of all cancers worldwide including cervical, vaginal, vulvar, penile, anal and oral.

Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisations at Public Health England, said: “This extended programme offers us the opportunity to make HPV related diseases a thing of the past and build on the success of the girls’ programme, which has already reduced the prevalence of HPV 16 and 18, the main cancer-causing types, by over 80%. We can now be even more confident that we will reduce cervical and other cancers in both men and women in the future.”

This decision follows new scientific evidence and advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and was announced on the 24th of July 2018.

The protection offered by this recommendation is twofold, the vaccine not only protects men from oral, throat and anal cancer, it will also assist in the overall reduction of the number of cervical cancers in women through a process called ‘herd immunity’.

Herd immunity is the resistance to the spread of a contagious disease that results within a population if a sufficiently high proportion of individuals are immune to a disease, commonly through vaccination.

Steve Brine, Public Health Minister, explained: “Any vaccination programme must be firmly grounded in evidence to ensure that we can get the best outcomes for patients, but as a father to a son, I understand the relief that this will bring to parents.”

The programme is expected to vaccinate thousands of boys in England each year.

Lunar eclipse 2018 – the science explained

 Last week on Friday the 27th of July many people will have been aware that a total lunar eclipse have our moon a reddish hue. The total lunar eclipse was visible from almost all parts of the world, the only countries missing out were Greenland, Canada and the US.

The total lunar eclipse coincided with planet Mars reaching opposition. Mars and Earth both orbit the sun at different distances and therefore they orbit at different  speeds. Roughly every 2 years, Mars, Earth and the sun form a straight line, with the Earth in the middle, an event known as opposition. Last Friday this opposition meant Mars appeared to shine extra brightly in the sky. This July, Mars was also at its closest to Earth since 2003.

So why does the moon turn red?

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, Earth and the moon perfectly line up. When the moon is fully in the Earth’s shadow it turns red, which is why it’s known as a ‘blood moon’.

The red colour occurs because sunlight is deflected through the Earth’s atmosphere, in a process called refraction. Red light from the sun is bent, as if through a lens , into the space behind the Earth and onto the surface of the eclipsed moon. The clearer the atmosphere during the lunar eclipse, the lighter and brighter the red colour appears. If the Earth had no atmosphere the light would not reach  the eclipsed moon and therefore it would be not visible from Earth.

The eclipse last Friday was the longest total lunar eclipse this century, lasting 1 hour 43 minutes and 35 seconds. It was the seventeenth total lunar eclipse this century and the next one will occur on the 21st of January 2019. According to NASA, there will be 230 lunar eclipses in the 21st century , but only 85 will be total lunar eclipses.

Chemicals that should be avoided in kids’ food

Last Monday the American Academy of Paediatrics published a report in Pediatrics that called on parents and paediatricians to avoid exposing children to eight different chemicals found in food and plastic packaging.

Data regarding the health effects of food additives on infants and children are limited or non-existent. However, infants and children are generally more vulnerable to chemical exposure, one of the reasons being that children have a lower body weight.

The chemicals that the report suggests to avoid include the following: nitrates and nitrites, a preservative often added to processed meats; bisphenols, used to make durable plastics; phthalates, used in plastic food wrap and containers; perfluoroalkyl chemicals, contained in grease-proof paper and paperboard; perchlorate, also found in packaging.

These chemicals are associated with health concerns such as endocrine disruption, neurodevelopmental disruption and cardiotoxicity.

The report suggests that to avoid these chemicals parents and carers should buy fresh or frozen produce and avoid processed meats packaged in plastic, as well as canned foods. Plastic containers should not be put in the dishwasher or microwave, which according to the research group can draw chemicals out of the plastic.

While the report highlights how important it is that we are aware of what chemicals we allow in our environment, further research is needed to establish the exact risk of each of these chemical compounds.

Written by Angharad  Baldwin

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