Study science and help to tackle cancer, pupils urged

Many secondary pupils may think science is not for them but studies of everyday organisms such as yeast and fruit flies can help fight cancer, according to Dr Gerry Graham, a researcher with the Beatson Institute Laboratories in Glasgow.

Dr Graham is an adviser to Cancer Research UK, which this week contributed to the science and health section of the Tomorrow's World Roadshow at the Scottish Exhibition Centre in the city. It was aiming to persuade 11 to 16- year-olds of the excitement and value of science to their futures, and invite them to consider careers in it.

Dr Graham already tours schools with his message. "You can understand complicated human processes by looking at simple organisms like yeast or fruit flies. My primary message is that basic science is a valuable thing to do and is relevant to our lives and the beauty of nature," he explained.

Almost all young people had seen cancer from some angle and recognised its significance and science was key to reducing its impact.

Cancer Research UK stressed that habits around diet, smoking and sun safety are consolidated in teenagers and are crucially important in preventing cancer in later years. Studies show that two-thirds of children have experimented with smoking by the age of 16 and 23 per cent are regular smokers.

Further research revealed that sunburn in children can double the risk of malignant melanoma in adulthood and that 80 per cent of lifetime exposure to the sun is before the age of 21.

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