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Religious HIV patients stop taking meds, cancer inequalities and why gardening is not OK for pregnant women

A round up of the morning’s health headlines on Monday 19 August

Patients are twice as likely to die of cancer in some areas of the UK than others, as a new website from Cancer Research UK reveals the stark reality of health inequalities.

The charity has published a map comparing areas by incidence of cancer, screening rates, early diagnosis, waiting times for specialists, chances of survival and lifestyle issues such as smoking rates. The site showed that premature cancer mortality rates are almost twice as high in Liverpool, where there are 157 deaths per 100,000 people below the age of 75, as they are in Kensington and Chelsea in west London, were fewer than 78 people die early.

The charity said it hoped the map would name and shame local health chiefs into taking action to reduce the inequalities.

The BBC reports that some young HIV patients are giving up their medication after being told by Pentecostal Church pastors to rely on faith in God instead. A survey by the Children’s HIV Association surveyed 19 doctors an found that 10 reported that patients had either stopped taking their anti-retroviral drugs because their pastors had told them to do so, or had come under pressure to stop taking their medication.

Dr Steve Welch, chairman of the Children’s HIV Association, said engaging with the families, as well as the pastors and faith leaders who are giving the advice was important in order to address the root of the problem. He said: ‘We need to stay engaged with the families and understand that… their faith is an important part of the support they get in their condition, and engage positively with them and not make it a clash of cultures.’

The Daily Mail brings us news of a new book which claims that pregnant women can drink alcohol and coffee, but should avoid gardening. Author Professor Emily Oster, who is an associate professor of economics at the University of Chicago, analysed hundreds of health studies and journals and found many studies were flawed.

She claims a glass of wine a day is fine, coffee won’t harm the baby and gaining too little weight in pregnancy is more worrying than gaining too much. Deli meats such as ham are also back on the menu, although she found that gardening increased the risk of exposure to a toxoplasmosis parasite living in the soil.

However, the DH was less convinced. A DH spokesperson said: ‘Drinking during pregnancy can be associated with miscarriage, foetal alcohol syndrome and low birth weight.’

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