SMC Science Deadline: Cancer inequalities, ice-loss legacy, civics & media

By Sciencemediacentre.co.nz received 3 years ago

Categories: Science
Age: 19 until 30 year 31 until 64 years 65 and older
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Issue 349,  16 Oct 2015

In this issue:

Cancer gap
Ice loss
Civics and media Policy updates
New from the SMC

Quick Links

SMC Alerts
Media Registration
About us
Contact the SMC

Top news from scimex.org  the Science Media Centre's news sharing platform.
Kiwi men's little swimmers are back on track

Buzzing bees love caffeine too
Over 200,000 NZers experience tinnitus

Moody teens improve with age

New from the SMC

  In the News: Indigenous cancer inequalities compared
In the News: Antarctic melt and long term sea level rise
Expert Reaction: Global cancer comparison highlights Maori inequality   In the News: Climate canaries in the New Zealand Herald   In the News: New Zealand’s oil spill record scrutinised

  Applications open for Auckland and Wellington two-day workshops
Apply Here


New from the SMC global network

  Expert Reaction: UK Ebola patient   Briefing: Questioning the quality of animal research   Expert Reaction: Examining robustness of animal-based research   Expert Reaction: Examining the reproducibility of cancer research   Expert Reaction: Using CRISPR to produce pig organs suitable for xenotransplantation
Australian SMC
  Briefing: The highs and lows of Aussie drug use   Briefing: Chronic pain – the hidden health crisis  

Indigenous cancer inequalities

Cancer rates are higher for Māori than other New Zealanders, but a similar trend isn’t seen in the data from other indigenous peoples, find new research.

The global study, published in the journal Lancet Oncology, examines differences in overall cancer burden between indigenous and non indigenous populations in Australia, Canada, the US and New Zealand.
The authors, including Massey University researchers, found differences between the two groups vary by country and type of cancer, and in New Zealand the overall cancer burden was higher for Māori compared to non-Māori.
This didn't appear to be the case in other countries examined. Overall cancer rates were substantially lower for indigenous populations in the USA (except for women in Alaska where it was higher) and similar or slightly lower in Australia and Canada, compared with their non-indigenous counterparts.
Dr Suzanne Moore from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the study's lead author, said that “the reasons for this are not well understood, but probably include competing causes of death at an early age – for example, cardiovascular disease and diabetes - and lower frequency of cancer screening, especially for colorectal and prostate cancers."
An accompanying commentary article from University of Otago researchers notes that poor collection of data often makes such comparisons difficult and calls for better monitoring of cancer in indigenous populations.
Speaking to the SMC, commentary author Prof Diana Sarfati from the University of Otago, Wellington, pointed out the results might not be that clear cut.
“It appears that the inequalities between indigenous and non-indigenous people are worse in New Zealand,” she said.
“In fact, New Zealand has some of the best data to monitor inequalities resulting in accurate estimations of cancer incidence for Māori while data in other countries are substantially less accurate meaning that the incidence of cancer among indigenous people in the other countries is likely to have been underestimated, possibly substantially.”
You can read more expert commentary and a round up of national news coverage on the Science Media Centre website.

Policy news & developments

Conservation funding: The Community Conservation Partnership Fund has announced funding grants for conservation projects throughout Central Otago and Southland.
Pharmacy consultation: The Ministry of Health is consultation on the Draft Pharmacy Action Plan 2015-2020 which outlines the future of pharmacy services.
Callaghan board: Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce today announced the appointment of Alison Barrass to the Callaghan Innovation Board.
Emergency health: The National Health Emergency Plan has been updated to ensure New Zealand is well prepared to respond to future events.
Diabetes plan: The Ministry of Health has launched Living Well with Diabetes, a five year plan for the health sector.

Lasting legacy of melting ice

New research on Antarctic ice loss paints a grim picture of long-term sea level rise.

Credit : Nicholas Golledge, Victoria University of Wellington
The new paper published in Nature by researchers from New Zealand, Australia and the US, used computer simulations to estimate how Antarctica's ice sheets will react to different warming scenarios in the future.

Although there are uncertainties in the modelling, the simulations suggest that atmospheric warming of 2 degrees Celsius, coupled with prolonged ocean warming of 0.5 degrees Celsius above present, could lead to the loss of 80 to 85 per cent of all floating ice in Antarctica over the coming centuries.
While the link between ice sheet-loss and and sea-level rise has been previously explored, the new research employed state-of-the art modelling techniques to quantify the how quickly Antarctic ice would melt into the ocean over the very long term, looking thousands of years into the future.

“Missing the 2°C target will result in an Antarctic contribution to sea-level rise that could be up to 10 metres higher than today,” said lead author Dr Nicholas Golledge, a senior research fellow at Victoria University’s Antarctic Research Centre, in a media release.

“The stakes are obviously very high—10 percent of the world’s population lives within 10 metres of present sea level.”

“The reality is that what we’re doing now in terms of greenhouse gas emissions is essentially setting up the climate for warming that will persist for centuries and probably millennia." Dr Golledge told Radio New Zealand.
"The thing about ice sheets is that they respond to long-term changes like this and it’s very hard to reverse that change.”

You can read more about the research in collated news coverage on the Science Media Centre website.

Quoted: Dominion Post

"It isn't good enough to be great in New Zealand, we also have to be great internationally."
  Professor Kate McGrath, Vice-Provost (Research) at Victoria University of Wellington, comments on the National Statement of Science Investment

Where is the media going?

How do we ensure a well-informed, civically engaged New Zealand in 2030?

That's the question the Civics and Media Project is setting out to answer as a series of national workshops considers the factors that will underpin the health of the media and of civic engagement in the coming decades.
Pressures on the business models underpinning the news industry, the fragmentation of audiences across the internet and the changing nature of civic engagement are all shaping how well-informed society is and will be in 2030.
Workshop 1 of the project, held in Wellington in September, examined the current state of the media, civic engagement and digital literacy. Workshop 2, which will be held at the University of Auckland on October 27, will consider what a civically-engaged, well-informed media might look like in 15 years time.
The final workshop, to be hosted by the Royal Society of New Zealand in late November, will come up with recommendations to help ensure we get there.
Science Media Centre Director Peter Griffin, who is on the organising committee for the workshops, said the transformation underway in the media had created an abundance of content but that the public wasn't necessarily better informed as a consequence.
"The accelerating trend toward the sensational, the immediate, the trivial, leaves many important issues under-reported. Meanwhile, people are seeking out information on the internet themselves on everything from politics to health. 
"Does that add up to well-informed citizens who are well-equipped to understand the issues and participate in democratic society? I don't know, but we have some challenges ahead that we need to be thinking about now."
A background paper on the project gives a good deal of context and summary notes from workshop 1 are available here. If you'd like to know more about the project or get involved in upcoming workshops, contact the organisers here.

New from Sciblogs

Some of the highlights from this week's Sciblogs posts:
Celebrating Ada Lovelace Day -  Nancy de Bueger quizzes five female scientists about their work and role models - in honour of Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths.
Pharmacy Council’s Code of Ethics proposal - Mark Hanna sums up submissions on a controversial loosening of guidelines for pharmacists.
I am not a psychologist - Michael Corballis scrutinises the line between psychology as a science and psychology as clinical practice.
Almost Armageddon? - A massive asteroid passed 'near' Earth this week. Steve Pointing takes a look at our chances if the next one is on target.

Upcoming events

Please see the SMC Events Calendar for more events and details. Nocturnal Natives - 14 October, Wellington. Researcher Katie Sheridan will be discussing her research on the forest-dwelling brown teal (pāteke) at Zealandia.
  Climate change and business conference - 21 October, Auckland. A conference is designed to bring business and policy makers together to up-skill and share ideas.
  Otago Spotlight Series: Cancer Research - 21 October, Wellington. Twelve researchers go into the spotlight providing bite-sized, lay-friendly outlines of their work at the cancer coalface in New Zealand.

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