May 17, 2020

Desk jobs double bowel cancer risk

blood sugar levels
bowel cancer
Cancer Research UK
desk j
3 min
Desk jobs increase the risk of bowel cancer
If you are sitting behind a desk reading this, the news is not good unfortunately. Scientists have found that office workers who have been in a desk j...

If you are sitting behind a desk reading this, the news is not good unfortunately.

Scientists have found that office workers who have been in a desk job for 10 years or more are two times more likely to suffer from bowel cancer than those who have more active jobs.

Even for those office workers who exercise regularly, researchers say they still have an increased risk of developing the disease.

There are around 40,000 new cases of bowel cancer diagnosed each year, and it claims approximately 16,000 lives each year.

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After being diagnosed with the disease, 70 per cent of sufferers survive past the first year, with about half living surviving for at least five years.

There is well established evidence that shows certain lifestyle factors contribute to bowel cancer – things like high levels of alcohol consumption, diets that are high in fat and not exercising enough.

It is now been discovered that long periods of sitting and inactivity during the day is another contributing factor, according the research team from the University of Western Australia.

The new findings support previous research which found men who spend most of their working day sitting down are 30 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than those who enjoy a more active working life.

The study compared 918 bowel cancer sufferers with over 1000 medical volunteers who did not have the disease.

They were asked about their lifestyles; things like occupation, job history, and levels of physical activity.

The results of the study – which have been published in the American Journal of Epidemiology – found that those who spent a decade or more in a mainly desk-based occupation had a 94 per cent higher chance of developing a tumour in the distal colon, an area in the lower bowel.

It was also discovered that they were 44 per cent more likely to develop rectum cancer.

It is thought that spending a long time sitting down in the day can increase blood sugar levels and damage insulin production, both of which are things that have been linked to bowel cancer.

The researchers said: “We found those who spent the most time in sedentary work had a risk of distal colon cancer that was twice that of those who spent the most time in a job requiring light activity.”

“Even a high level of vigorous recreational physical activity did not modify the effect of sedentary work.”

“The findings have occupational health implications, given that advances in technology have led to increasing amounts of sedentary behaviour at work.”

Dr Claire Knight, a health information officer at Cancer Research UK, agreed that these findings back up results from other studies on physical inactivity and cancer.

However, she did point out that it would be helpful to conduct a larger study: “This is a fairly small study which relied on asking people about their behaviour years ago, which can make it less reliable.”

“But it does reflect other larger studies which show that being physically inactive can mean a greater cancer risk.”

She added: “Even small amounts of physical activity can be good for your health and add up over the course of the day and the more active we are the more we can help reduce our cancer risk.”

“Being physically active also helps with keeping a healthy body weight, which we know can reduce the risk of many types of cancer.”

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Jun 13, 2021

How healthcare can safeguard itself against cyberthreats

Jonathan Miles
6 min
Jonathan Miles, Head of Strategic Intelligence and Security Research at Mimecast, tells us how the healthcare sector can protect itself from attacks

One of the most fundamental lessons from the COVID crisis is that health should always be a priority.  In a similar fashion to the human body that frequently fights off viruses and foreign invaders that intend to cause it harm, the sector itself is now a prime target for another type of external threat: cyberattacks.

The figures speak for themselves: between December and January this year, hospitals in the UK were at 89% capacity, with 7,000 fewer available beds than there usually are. As the pandemic increased pressure on hospitals, clinics, and research facilities to create a treatment for patients globally, it has left the sector exposed to hackers who, like a virus, have been targeting it relentlessly and evolving their tactics. 

From patient records being held ransom, to fake emails claiming to originate from the UN WHO, the NHS, or vaccine centres, through to attacks on the cold supply chain to find out the secret formula of the COVID vaccine, the healthcare industry is facing constant cyberattacks and struggling to cope. This threat is unlikely to go away anytime soon – and as such, the industry needs to take a proactive, preventative stance to stay safe in a dynamic digital world. 

Going digital 

The responsive nature of healthcare – particularly of hospitals – means that efficiency is crucial to the industry’s standard operations. To support this, the sector has been embracing technological advancements that can improve the quality of work, enabling staff to meet pressing deadlines, and enhancing patient care. For example, the industry has been digitising records and improving its ways of working through digital means over the past few years. 

This shift is critical to offer high quality patient care; yet, it also means the sector has become more dependent on IT, which can come with a risk if cybersecurity processes employed are deemed as inadequate. 

Without the correct security measures in place, the desired efficiency gains realised, can be easily lost in a heartbeat. Simply put, an elementary glitch in the system can have a tremendous ripple effect on many areas, from accessing patient records and conducting scans, to maintaining physical security and protecting the intellectual property of experimental treatment development.

To prevent this, healthcare organisations need to ensure they’re considering cybersecurity as part of their overall digital transformation strategy – and setting the right foundations to create a culture where safety goes hand in hand with patient care. 

Strengthening defences

Before implementing cybersecurity process, healthcare organisations need to assess the potential risks they face. Depending on how much confidential data the trust has, where it is stored, who has access to it and via which means, the cybersecurity strategy and associated solutions will change. 

It’s fair to say that a medical device start-up where all employees have a corporate-sanctioned laptop and access data via a VPN will have radically different needs to a large hospital with hundreds of frontline workers connecting to the hospital’s Wi-Fi using their personal device. 

These requirements will pale by comparison to a global pharmaceutical giant with offices in multiple locations, a large R&D department researching new treatments for complex diseases and a fully integrated supply chain. Considering the existing setup and what the organisations is looking to achieve with its digital transformation strategy will therefore have an immediate impact on the cybersecurity strategy.

Despite this, there are fundamentals that any organisation should implement: 
Review and test your back-up policy to ensure it is thorough and sufficient – By checking that the organisation’s back-up is running smoothly, IT teams can limit any risks of disruption in the midst of an incident and of losing data permanently.

In our recent State of Email Security report, we found that six out of ten organisations have been victims of ransomware in 2020. As a result, afflicted organisations have lost an average of six days to downtime. One third of organisations even admitted that they failed to get their data back, despite paying the ransom. In the healthcare industry, this could mean losing valuable patient records or data related to new treatments – two areas the sector cannot afford to be cavalier about.

Conduct due diligence across the organisation’s supply chain – Healthcare organisations should review their ways of working with partners, providers and regulatory institutions they work with in order to prevent any weak link in their cybersecurity chain. Without this due diligence, organisations leave themselves exposed to the risks of third party-led incidents. 

Roll out mandatory cybersecurity awareness training - Healthcare organisations shouldn’t neglect the training and awareness of their entire staff – including frontline workers who may not access the corporate network on a regular basis. According to our State of Email Security report, only one fifth of organisations carry out ongoing cyber awareness training.

This suggests it is not widely considered as a fundamental part of most organisations cyber-resilience strategy, despite the fact many employees rely on their organisation’s corporate network to work. By providing systematic training, healthcare organisations can help workers at all levels better understand the current cyberthreats they face, how they could impact their organisation, the role they play in defending the networks, and develop consistent, good cybersecurity hygiene habits to limit the risks of incidents. 
Consider a degree of separation – Information and Operational Technology (IT and OT) networks should be separated.

Although mutually supported and reliance on each other, employees shouldn’t be accessing one via the other. This should be complemented by a considered tried and tested contingency and resiliency plan that allows crucial services to function unabated should there be a compromise. Similarly, admin terminals should not have internet access to afford a degree of hardening and protection for these critical accounts.

As the sector becomes a common target for fraudulent and malicious activity, putting cybersecurity at the core of the organisation’s operations is critical. It will help limit the risks of disruption due to cyberattacks, reduce time spent by the cybersecurity team to resolve easily avoidable errors, and ensure that institutions can deliver patient care, safe in the knowledge that their networks are safe.  

Fighting future threats

With technology continuing to change the face of healthcare, the surface area and vectors available for attacks by malicious actors is constantly increasing. With the introduction of apps, networked monitoring devices, and a need for communication, the attack vector is ever expanding, a trend that needs to be monitored and secured against.

To prevent any damage to patients, staff, or the organisation they are responsible for, healthcare leaders must put security front and centre of their digital transformation strategy. Only then can the sector harness the full benefits of technology. Doing this should include implementing cybersecurity awareness training to challenge misconceptions around security, encourage conversation, and to ensure employee knowledge of the security basics and threats faced. 

This ultimately allows healthcare organisations to do what they do best: provide the highest standard of patient care, safe in the knowledge that their operations, patients, and data are safe.

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